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

Notice Fortitude…and Its Absence!

I’ve recently had the opportunity to coach a professional athlete who decided to pursue a career in financial sales. The area he’s chosen is quite daunting in its complexity, yet his commitment to it is profound. As anyone would be when entering into a field with its own lexicon and intricate details, my client was challenged with putting the entire puzzle together in a short amount of time. Throughout his endeavor though, I’ve been struck and inspired by his discipline, positive mental attitude and, most of all, his fortitude.

Dictionary.com defines fortitude  as: mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously

One does not become a pro athlete overnight. It takes, among other things, a tremendous amount of practice, which is a test of fortitude. As such, we spent a good amount of time working on his delivery, focusing on using probing questions to understand a client’s goals and challenges. Several sessions included videotaping his sales presentations/recommendations. Upon seeing himself, he found his delivery to be halting versus conversational, disjointed versus seamless. This athlete realized each short coming and maturely focused on listening to my coaching, experimenting and running the plays I designed for him in a dogged, optimistic fashion. It’s quite inspiring; I never wanted our sessions to end!

There has never been a hint of resignation or frustration from him, only the discipline and fortitude of repetition. From this, he’s now conversational, curious and clear with his recommendations. He’s able to kid with certain clients he’s developed rapport with and close them with a nice level of relational urgency.

As a leader make sure you acknowledge this type of fortitude when you see it. Without acknowledging it, a person could feel the opposite. As this person excels, find ways they can stretch even further. Great achievers enjoy this attention and challenge. It affirms them.

In what area of your business communication could you exhibit more fortitude? Let me know with a reply below. Thanks! – SG

What I Learned from Don Rickles

Comics have always been my idols ever since I was a kid. The courage of a comic to take a room and deliver their material always impressed me as the most courageous act a person could make.

One of those idols, Don Rickles, passed away yesterday and his life left an impression with me. With Rickles, I learned you can take a risk in saying something unexpected to a person, PROVIDING you’ve got their best interest at heart. Every time I’ve taken that risk with a client, I’ve always provided the right context to my “lightening” comment. Often clients reconnect we me and recount that lightening statement as the one point that stuck with them and transformed their behavior.

You actually have to dig deeper to create the lightening statement. But when you do, you’ve got the opportunity to stand out as someone who passionately cares about someone or something and can back up your thinking. Several years ago, I recall recommending to a client they take a screen test in Los Angeles, given their charismatic delivery, since all they did was perform/speak versus genuinely desire to understand their client’s business before speaking about their offering. That’s a Don Rickles lightening statement.

It demonstrably, though, moved our conversation and relationship to a deeper level where we focused on transforming this selfish behavior to an empathetic relational behavior.

The coaching point is; don’t shy away from the Don Rickles statement, as long as your confident it will get your client’s attention. Once you’ve got their attention you can then present your rationale for the statement which illustrates your deep concern for their success and well-being.

I don’t have any joke or one-liner here I can conclude this with that could come even close to the direct wit of Don Rickles. So, I won’t event try. He was that good.

Please share your thoughts about Don Rickles in the comments below.  Thanks. – SG

Find Your Client’s Motivation First, Not Yours

Solution.

Problem.

Motivation.

Many times, I see people frame their “ask” of clients in this order. Right out of the gate, they speak about a great service or product they’ve come to discuss. They move next to saying that the solution will fix a problem the client has. And lastly, they will relate that solution to something they believe will motivate the client to say, “Yes…I’m in.”

This is all backwards, as a client of mine found out recently.

He asked me for some help in framing an “ask.” He was worried his client would take it as a condemnation of how things were being handle by him, and his team. He knew he had a good solution but, it would involve a new process that dealt with a serious shortcoming. Product….then solution.

The issue here is that you are telling a client they are doing something wrong or, they are wrong for not knowing something could be done better. That’s not a strong motivator for anyone. And there’s the key focus…motivation. That’s really what you are there to do, right? Persuade your audience so that they are motivated to accept your solution?

In business we’re often pressed to produce a result or fix an issue with no time to design our “ask.” Try asking yourself, “What’s the motivator for the person I’m presenting my ask?”
Here’s a hint, 9 out of 10 times their motivator is NOT yours.

By declaring your “ask” too frequently you risk getting the reputation of “its his/her way or the highway/she’s difficult to work with”, or worse “she’s quite selfish”…etc.

Its better to to pause/think and ask yourself, what’s the motivator for my listener?

I did this with my client and he suddenly had a revelation…by instituting the process he was recommending, his client’s head of sales would actually sell more product at the best margin. “That’s how you initiate the conversation,” I said to him. And we crafted his ask by starting with, “I’ve got an idea on how to increase sales with the best margin.” Now they are on the same wavelength.

 

Try re-ordering your next presentation with motivation as the lead. Let me know how your communication goes!

Timing a Sales Call

Many factors come into play at a sales meeting, and it’s impossible to control them all. But, one you CAN control is the timing of the agenda. By stating clearly at the beginning of the meeting exactly what you intend to do and how long the process will take, and then getting agreement to it, you command the situation and stay in charge of the meeting.

However, like many things…this says easy, does hard. Clients aren’t always amenable to your agenda and timing. Here are a few tips to make that easier to handle.

Ask for the Time

We’ve all done it….run out of time. This is especially disturbing when you don’t get to the “close” of a presentation. A lot of factors contribute to that happening but, I’ve found the biggest is when people don’t stick to their own timing.

Critical to this is asking, up front, how much time your client has, especially when you are greeted with “I don’t have much time today.” I recommend you probe further about this to eliminate the guesswork. “I’m sorry you are rushed today. How much time do you have for us to discuss your [fill in their critical need here].” At this point, you have gotten a commitment of time. That’s a start.

But how do you break up that time so that you accomplish your mission?

Set the Timing

Below is a chart with my recommended timing for a one-hour sales call:


Starting with your Opening Comments, everything has a time limit. Yes, the “chit-chat” at the start of the meeting always happens and it is a time to break the ice but, you have to know it is eating into your opening volley. Take up four minutes with introductions and you’ll have just one left to introduce your intended purpose.

Use this guide when putting together your agenda. Each element is critical because it has either your client or you delivering important information. That’s right….your presentation is not just about YOU talking. You’ll see that I dedicate 10 minutes right at the beginning to “Probing and Listening.” You might have entered the meeting thinking you’ve nailed your recommendations but, this is the time to find out new information and adjust your recommendations so that your information is relevant to their current situation.

Stick to the Timing

Each element in this presentation guide is critical so, don’t bypass one just to get to the other. Believe me, that’s easy to do. So many times, I’ve seen even veteran salespeople skip the last step…the closing! Many times it’s because they’ve run out of time. That’s a cardinal sin in my book. You are in charge of the time! Be sure you give yourself the space at the end to ask for what you came there for or, you risk the meeting being a waste of everyone’s time.

“Yes, but my client wanted to discuss some other stuff and that messed up the agenda.” It happens…a client wants to go on and on about issues that may, or may not, be relevant to your presentation. Again, you have to take control here. “I understand that these are important issues and I’m happy to address them. However, given the time you’ve allotted us today, can we either extend our time or, focus on [critical issue] today and I can return to discuss those issues?” Either way, you’ve just regained control.

“But Steve…what if they don’t give me a full hour?” Sure….60 minutes is a good bit of time and clients may not give it to you. So, once you find out (hopefully well in advance of the meeting) how much time they do have, scale the timing to fit it. But keep the proportions the same so that you can be effective delivering your presentation and reserve time at the end for questions and the closing.

You may get only one shot at this meeting so, stay in control of it by organizing and adhering to your agenda.

Using this timing chart as a guide, let me know how your next meeting goes with a reply below. Thanks! -sg

Sales Training Tip: Meeting Preparation Puts You In Control

Meeting preparation is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you stay in control of the meeting agenda.  Yet, I am amazed how many executives and sales people are on autopilot when they get ready for an important meeting.  They arrive with a presentation or talking points based only on their company’s data.  What doesn’t come with them is a series of questions crafted from good client reconnaissance.

Preparing for a Meeting: Research and Empathy

Preparing for a presentation or sales call is a repetitive act.  It’s easy to lose your creativity.  But when you do, you lose your empathy for your client and their issues. Client research, thoroughly performed, will reveal unique aspects of any business, giving you an opportunity to show your skills at effective problem solving. It also demonstrates a great deal of respect towards your client.

Good Research Leads to Successful Meetings

Good research will lead you to want to ask  specific questions not only to verify the research, but to understand where your client is headed and you can help them get there. It seems basic but really, how can you make any strategic recommendations to your clients if you don’t know specifics about their overall business and current issues?

Showcase your research through intelligent probing questions. Not only will you get information you can use but, you’ll demonstrate the prep work you’ve done, indicating concern and respect for your client. Remember that simply looking at their brochure and web site will only show you the tip of the iceberg.  Due diligence, done well, will take you below the water line to where the real story lies!

Have you ever walked into a meeting knowing you were not at all prepared? Share that story with us in a reply below! -SG

 

Convey Messages Effectively: Listen to Yourself First

I often coach executives who are preoccupied with their image and how they’ll be perceived by their teams, the public etc.
This is very understandable. All of us are concerned about how the public sees and hears us at some point.

Here’s a secret though…whether it’s mission critical or not, your message is best appreciated when its delivered from your heart NOT your image/ego.

Over thinking a message, piece of analysis or sales plan often works against you. Determining what your audience truly needs to understand trumps what you need to look like. It really isn’t about you. It’s about conveying your message effectively so that listeners understand how it affects their business and lives. Do your best to come from this place, not your own.

Have Your Heard Yourself Lately?

Here’s an example I wish I wasn’t sharing with you that occurred recently:
I was referred to an executive who runs a large international investment firm. Upon meeting him and probing to understand his goals and challenges, he lamented that he’d become quite frustrated. He felt there was a lack of understanding on the part of the investment community with regard to his investment methodology. As a result, they hesitate in placing funds with him. He was really upset by this.

Upon videotaping his delivery of this investment methodology, I was struck by how complex he made it. So much so that I had to remark, “Were you aware that when you present your methodology it’s as though you’re speaking to yourself?” He was not. Looking at himself on the video, he could clearly see what I meant. It shocked him.

At this point I stressed that his investment methodology was NOT about glorifying himself or his smart team. Rather, it should be about educating unsophisticated listeners as to why his methodology works. I said to him, “Its not about you, its about them.” For the next two hours we focused on how to re-engineer his methodology so that his listeners could self-realize the secret sauce he and his team have discovered, in their own aperture, not his.

I speak a lot about listening first. But when was the last time you listened to yourself from THEIR perspective. Give it a try and let me know what you discover.

Checklist for New Clients

The Boy Scouts and I share a common, urgent message that we have been delivering for years: Be Prepared!

We live in a “need it now” culture. Too often, that means not doing the preparatory work needed before you talk with a potential client. “I just don’t have time” is what I hear most often. Which leads to the dreaded “I just went in there and had to wing it.” For your company, a lot of time, effort and resources went into getting you into that room. Winging it just won’t cut it!

If you’ve worked with me, you know that I stress “systematizing the process,” which is about as far from the above scenario as one can get. But I understand that you, like most everyone, are under time pressure to get everything done. So, let me help a bit. Below you will find a checklist. Use this BEFORE the next time you meet with a prospect.

And don’t cheat yourself…go through each point and check it off once you’ve completed it to your satisfaction. What I predict will happen is that you will enter the meeting more confident, with a better understanding of the client so you aren’t asking Client-101-type questions and can really get to their pain points far more quickly.

New Client Pre-Meeting Checklist

Download Your Checklist

Did it help? Let me know how. -SG

Personal Values…Find Them to Align with Them

needle on a hygrometer pointing to normalI’m struck at how often people unknowingly forget to find and/or understand a client’s personal values. Without knowing these values, how can you tailor your recommendation, lead a team or recommend a change?

Here’s a hint…it’s all in the listening. (sound familiar?) Yeah…I’ve posted previously about listening first!

Your Values May Not Be Their Values

Generally we look at our own circumstances and make decisions from them. I’ve found and benefited from suspending my own circumstances or opinion of an issue and allowed meetings to remain ambiguous for a while. Many aspects open up when I pause to determine the values and beliefs of my listeners BEFORE I look/decide from mine. And then, I ask some pointed questions that help uncover the values that drive their business decisions. Questions such as:

* What’s important to you personally this year?
* How do you want to be viewed by your clients and internal management team?
* What do you value most in a relationship?

Questions like these affirm people. They say to a client your values are important to me. It also may give them time to consider their own values and define them better for themselves. And you made that happen, increasing the value they put on your counsel.

How to React to Their Values

A further reason to determine a person’s values is to discover HOW to align your recommendations with them. Without this effort, you risk being seen as selfish. The “it’s all about me” message comes through loud and clear if you align your solutions based on your values and opinions. The more someone shares their values the easier it is to align with them and tailor your ideas.

Take, for example, Millennials. Depending on your generation, you may not have the same values they do. The World Economic Forum wrote about Millennials last year, saying they will be “the first generation to be worse off than their parents.” Think that influences their values? And if your mindset is that these are just young people (even though some are now in their late 30s!) and that they will come around…that’s the selfishness I mentioned above. YOU have to come around first, understand where they are coming from and where they want to go. Much has been made of their short attention spans due to technology…well that applies to your recommendations too. If you don’t address their issues from a perceptive that understands their values, they will simply move on. Next!

That’s just one example of how clients’ values must shape your recommendations. As you lead a group of people, be sensitive to this. Understand what a team of people collectively value to frame your go-forward actions. Knowing these values also tells you how to relate to people and manage/lead them.

What are some core values your clients’ possess? Share them with a reply below. Thanks! -SG

I am a GREAT salesperson!

A bold statement. And it was said to me by a prospective client at our first meeting! As I heard him say this I was slightly taken aback and countered with, “That’s great to hear. I’m curious, though, what’s one skill you’d like to strengthen as we look at our potential collaboration together?”

He said, “I never really know how to close once I’ve delivered my presentation.”

Sales Have to Be Closed to Happen

My internal reaction was “but you JUST said that you are a great salesman!” Anyone in sales knows how important closing is and if you’ve worked with me, you know I work on effective and efficient deal closing until the skill becomes second nature. So, I asked him to give me an example of this challenge. He did and it became clear to me that he was not finding and staying in the pain. Here’s what I mean by that:

Closing Starts with Questioning

We ended up speaking at length about how exactly to probe a potential client to understand their goals and challenges. I stressed that if you ask the right questions, you will get the right answers that will help you tailor recommendations. I’ve said it before and said it to him….listen more, talk less. If you hear your own voice far more than that of your potential client, you are not learning…you are lecturing. Keeping them engaged in their pain points and getting deeper explanations through probing questions will open up possibilities for you to give short, precise counsel. And that will help you stand above your competition.

At the end of our meeting he confidently said: “This would help me close wouldn’t it?” I graciously said “Yes. You’re now ready to engage with anyone providing you listen first, recommend second.” This applies to you (and me), too. Make sure you prove to your client you’ve heard and understood them. This affirms your client. It says, ”knowing your world is essential to your understanding my world.”

Be in the pain with them and together, you’ll get out of it!

Are you a great salesperson? Regardless of your answer, what’s a skill you wish was stronger?

Leadership Planning for 2017: Developing Your “A” Team

This is part three of a three-part series designed to help you plan your leadership and get your team ready for 2017. The other articles are focused on Looking Back to Move Forward and Creating Your Mission Statement

Now that you’ve studied what’s worked with your organization, critically reviewed your go-to-market strategy and established your 2017 vision, what’s next? I’ll tell you…make sure you’ve got the “A” team to execute it and the metrics to measure it!

You can’t accomplish these goals alone. You need a team of dedicated mature people who are in sync with you. That requires knowing each person on your team, intimately, the lieutenants certainly. It’s important to determine the type of individuals you want on your team, the behaviors you want manifested and the level of collaboration you require. When was the last time you reviewed your team?

Managing Your Best Employees

One way to insure this collaboration is to formalize it. Determine how you’ll stay in sync as a team. You also need to determine what you’ll measure as an organization that everyone understands.
List out how you’ll remain in sync:

  • Weekly participation calls
  • Formalize an On-Boarding Plan
  • Create valuable incentive plans
  • Set clear territories for your client managers and new business development execs
  • Commit to a sales protocol that you don’t vary from

Determine what you will measure:

  • The number of client calls per week
  • New prospects researched per week
  • Meetings conducted with prospects
  • Business derived from existing clients
  • New business closed

What each client/prospect meeting must include:

  • An agenda
  • Completed client probing questions
  • An understanding of each client’s goals and challenges
  • A debriefing meeting with management to determine the next step to take

Developing a Plan for Weaker Players

You also need to formalize a development plan for strengthening your “B” Players and a formal review process with your “C” Players. Make sure your lieutenants are capable of coaching and developing your team. I’ve seen it happen that some leaders may orphan their direct reports which will prevent the achievement of your business goals. You can’t let that happen. Help them create a formalized Development Action Plan that you and your directs need to structure and use. Lastly, create a pipeline vetting process. Determine what questions each team member must be asked to separate a deal from a dream as you enter into 2017.

You may also determine at this point that you have to cut some people who will never achieve “A” level, or even solid “B” level, status. Those “C” players are holding back your whole team. Start the year knowing that every member on your team has potential and is eager to achieve it. You, and they, will be more satisfied when they look back at 2017 to assess the accomplishments you’ve achieved together.

Is your team full of “A” players? If not, what is your plan for developing your “B” team members? Let me know if I can help. -sg