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How To Get Rid Of A Prospect

4 Simple Strategies to Professionally Move On The challenge with sales, well one of the challenges, is that no matter how much googling, research or asking around you do, you never know how qualified a prospect really is until you have an actual conversation with them. We have all been there, we have done our […]

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How To Get Rid Of A Prospect

4 Simple Strategies to Professionally Move On

The challenge with sales, well one of the challenges, is that no matter how much googling, research or asking around you do, you never know how qualified a prospect really is until you have an actual conversation with them.

We have all been there, we have done our due diligence, put in the time, only to find out in that first call that this prospect is not really a fit. Perhaps their decision making process is too cumbersome, their investment limits too low, or their idea of “personal service” too intense.

Whatever the reason, you are out there on a limb. This prospect is interested and you do not want to pull the trigger. You know that doing business with them would not be good for you or your company. Now what do you do? How do you broach the subject without making the prospect mad, without insulting them or worse, losing the chance to do business with them down the road? How do you professionally “move on?

Years ago, I was a banker. Working for a financial institution that was well, let’s just say ‘conservative.’ Sometimes, I would start working with a prospect, only to find out that due to our underwriting requirements, our credit limits or their high tolerance for risk, they were not a good fit.

How uncomfortable was that? My prospect was interested. I had gotten them to this point and then I realized I did not want to do business with them – right now. I had become the professional equivalent of a tease.

People talked, we were in a small town and reputation was everything. I had to find a way to “move on” from these prospects while still ensuring they felt taken care of. I needed them to see their needs were met, but not necessarily by me.

In other words, I had to learn how to get rid of my prospects and professionally move on. In today’s economy, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. And that certainly is true when it comes to moving on from a prospect. The ‘how’ is all about the service people get, the experience they have, and the way they feel.

Here are four strategies to get rid of a prospect and professionally move on:

  1. Understand the Problem

First and foremost, listen intently and get a clear understanding of what your prospect’s issues are. Determine why you are not the right fit to meet their needs. A few years ago, I was the closing keynote for a CEO event. At the end, one CEO approached me about doing some sales training for his team. I learned that his company was doing well, his team was engaged, and they were ready to take it another level. He seemed like my perfect prospect, at this point.

His budget was perfect, and he was more than willing to invest in my services. This could not get better. Could not get better that is, until I learned his greatest challenge. It turned out, at his wife’s request, he hired his brother-in-law. He was, at best, dead weight. My prospect informed me that while he was willing to do most things I ask, he was not willing to touch his brother-in-law.

In that moment, after all that conversation, after how excited I had been, I realized this CEO was no longer my prospect. Not only were his problems and challenges outside my scope, I had no interest in that type of work. But, I understood the problem. I had the information I needed to take care of this prospect.

  1. Make the Connection

Just because your prospect does not meet your requirements, does not mean they do not meet someone else’s. If you want to get rid of a prospect and move on professionally, you need to connect them with someone else.  Once I realized my prospect was no longer for me, I connected him with a colleague who specialized in that type of “drama.”

  1. Follow-up

With the connection made, it is a nice touch to follow-up. Ensure your former prospect is well taken care of and their needs are met. No matter which professional ultimately does the work, prospects remember who helped them.

Once my colleague started working with “my prospect,” I did a quick reach out. Things were fantastic. My colleague was diving in and navigating the difficult issues of dealing with family and non-performers. We had a great conversation, and I let my prospect know I would keep in touch.

  1. Keep in Touch

Just because a prospect does not qualify right now, does not mean they will not down the road. That is why you want to keep in touch. Remember, they now see you as someone who helped them, rather than as someone who did not want to do business with them.

Eighteen months to the day I had met my prospect, I reached out to see how things were going. He had made amazing progress. His brother-in-law resigned and his new sales leader was doing amazing work. He asked if we could get together for lunch, and that led to a two-year contract.  Now that his family issues were handled, my “non-prospect” turned into a qualified customer.

Sales is far more art than science, and nothing about it is black and white. Finding the right prospects, and having the courage to walk away from the wrong ones takes experience and skills. I would love to hear your stories, your strategies, and what you do to “professionally move on” from a prospect.

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Strategy & Customer Service and tagged , , , ,

7 Funny Mistakes Sales People Make

& The Strategies You Need To Stop Making Them Ever realize how much you can learn from watching other people screw up? Sometimes I think that watching the missteps and wrong moves people make can be even more helpful than watching them do it right. This holds true in most professions and especially true in […]

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7 Funny Mistakes Sales People Make

& The Strategies You Need To Stop Making Them

Ever realize how much you can learn from watching other people screw up? Sometimes I think that watching the missteps and wrong moves people make can be even more helpful than watching them do it right.

This holds true in most professions and especially true in sales. When it comes to sales, I am obsessed. I believe to be good at sales you just need to embrace it is a life-long journey and a skill that you will never master. Having accepted that, I am always on the hunt, always observing how others sell, how I am sold to and what sales people do that works and what they do that doesn’t.

I take notes, keep a journal and keep a catalog of great techniques, major failures and funny sales people stories. Every now and then I review my journal looking for new ideas or just refresh my memory of what I can do to up my game.

During one of my most recent reviews, I found myself learning a lot and laughing out loud at some of the funny stories and screw-ups I have seen many of my fellow sales professionals make – me included. Below are seven of my favorites.

7 Major Mistakes Sales People Make

1 – Talk About Themselves – I had a note in a journal about a guy, we will call him Tom, who called me about some CRM software. I am not sure if he was surprised I actually answered the phone, or he was just too pushy. Hello was the only word I basically got out of my mouth. From the time I answered the phone until we finally hung up, Tom talked all about his product, his services and himself. Why do sales people do this? How do you even get started in sales without learning, early on, that the one person your customers and prospects are most interested in is not you. If you want your prospects to be interested in your products than you need to be interested in them.

2 – Lie to The Gatekeeper – I have to admit this is one of my favorites. One of my long time clients is named Robert. He is the CEO of a large manufacturing company. We have been working together for years, so I have gotten to know his assistant Lynn really well. When I call Robert for our coaching sessions, I usually spend a few moments on the phone talking with Lynn first. One morning I called, Lynn had just gotten off the phone with someone, a sales rep, calling to meet with Robert. Lynn could not wait to share the story. Apparently, this sales rep called to say that he had met “Bob” at a networking event, and “Bob” told this sales rep to call his “secretary” and set up lunch. Lynn was laughing because first and foremost Robert goes by Robert never by “Bob”, and she had never, ever known Robert to use the term secretary. Don’t lie to the gatekeeper, never underestimate the gatekeeper and if you want to succeed at sales never discount the power of winning over the gate keeper.

3 – Think They’re in Control – my husband was doing some research to buy a new piece of technology for his dental practice. He was looking at three companies who offered basically the same product. Now my husband is that customer that actually reads the pamphlets, does the research and studies every final detail. It takes him a while to make a decision, but when he makes one he is a customer for life. While two of the sales reps seemed to understand this perfectly, the last one was under the false impression she was in control of the sales cycle. She called, called and called again, finally telling Rob that if he did not make a decision in the next two days he would lose out on the twenty-five percent discount and the bonus items. All that she accomplished by thinking she was in control, was to help Rob speed up the decision-making process by eliminating her from the choices. As sales professionals, we have to understand that we are not in control of the sales cycle, and if we assume we are we will just push our customers into the hands of our competitors. Give the customers room to make decisions.

4 – Assume You’ll Stay – Every six to eight weeks I go in for the long process of getting my haircut and colored. A two-hour ordeal that while I love the result, I hate the time it takes. I had been going to the same salon for years, always asking for the first appointment of the morning so I could get in and out as fast as possible. While my appointment was always at 9, my stylist was routinely ten minutes late. At first I did not mind. I would go in, get a cup of coffee, pay for my appointment ahead of time and schedule my next visit. I was efficient. Then one day I was driving in to the salon, and I noticed a new salon was opening not far from my existing one. As I sat waiting for my stylist to arrive, ten minutes late as usual, I thought why do I put up with this? There are a million places I can get my hair styled. So, after being a customer for ten years, with no warning, no comment, no explanation, I changed stylists. The lesson, never assume your customers are happy, never assume that their needs are being met, and never just assume they’ll stay. We have to work hard at re-winning customers if we want them to stay.

5 – Don’t Do Their Homework – this one is so funny. I was making a call with a client, a CEO that I coach. I also train his sales people. He was getting so frustrated with their lack of progress, that he wanted to implement a new sales approach. Before getting started, I suggested we make some calls so I could see how he approached sales, and what exactly he was looking for in the perfect sales professional. He had not been on a sales call in years (first big problem) so he jumped at the chance. He chose a prospect that he had wanted their business for a long time. He set up the call, we met with the prospect, had an amazing conversation uncovering all types of needs. At the close of the call my client said “Miranda (the prospects name) what is it going to take to get your business?” To which Miranda replied, “I already do business with you.” My client had failed to do the homework and see that while the not the depth of customer she has the potential to be, Miranda had bought a product or two from my client. Lesson here, do your homework and be prepared.

6 – Forget to Dress the Part – sales is about getting people to know, like and trust you. In other words, making them feel comfortable. I was coaching a young sales professional in his first year on the job. He was selling solar panels to residential and commercial builders. Due to tax credits and incentives his product was in demand, and the competition was fierce. We show up the first day to get started, and he comes dressed in a suit and tie, and to add to it smoking a cigarette. In my opinion, we needed to start the sales coaching process right here and right now. First, he is selling to contractors, contractors that do not dress in a suit. Second, he is selling solar panels, alternative energy and things that are good for the environment. Smoking and solar energy do not go together. He assured me he would not smoke in front of a customer, and to that I had to laugh. Dressing the part means believing in and representing your product. You would not be a vegan who sells meat to grocery stores. You should not be drinking a coke while trying to sell diabetic supplies. And you can’t wear shorts and a t-shirt to present in a boardroom, any more than you can wear a heels and skirt to sell to farmer. Understanding that people need to you to believe in what you are selling before they will believe in it. You have to dress the part from how you act, how you dress, how you communicate.

7 – Expect You to Make the Call – last but not least, expect you to follow-up or make the call. I had a great conversation with a vendor and she needed to get a little information from me to move forward. I was definitely interested, so I was more than willing to set the follow-up call. However, she made the fatal mistake of putting that responsibility on me. She told me to give her a call in “about a week” when I had everything together. As you can imagine that follow-up call never happened. I got busy, I got sidetracked and bigger priorities hit my radar. When she eventually tried to follow-up two weeks later I had moved on. As sales professionals, we need to always control the calling process.

So, there you have it, my 7 Major Mistakes Sales Professionals Make. I feel like I just scratched the surface, so I would love to hear your feedback, get your thoughts and your ideas. Let me know what you think. Comment here or reach out to mere@valuespeaker.com

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5 Things Leaders Need To Stop Doing

I just came back from a training session for next level leaders. A year-long program I run to develop high-potentials for their role as leaders in the organization. The program is twelve half-day sessions of experiential hands-on growth. We end every session with an open period. It’s a time for each member to get the […]

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5 Things Leaders Need To Stop Doing

I just came back from a training session for next level leaders. A year-long program I run to develop high-potentials for their role as leaders in the organization.

The program is twelve half-day sessions of experiential hands-on growth. We end every session with an open period. It’s a time for each member to get the answers to information they want to know about becoming great leaders.

I have to say, this is my favorite part of each session. Attendees come armed with great and sometimes pretty tough questions about what it really takes to lead in today’s constantly shifting economy. We spend about an hour in a pretty gut wrenchingly honest discussion about everything from how to have tough conversations; how to make difficult decisions; to how find balance in such a demanding role.

This last session, a young-man who has only been in the program a month asked me a question that no-one has ever brought up before. He said I have only been in this program for a little while, but I notice that we only discuss what leaders should do. While that is helpful, I am just curious is there anything as leaders we shouldn’t do?

I almost laughed out loud when he asked it. Is there anything leaders today should stop doing? I am not sure I have a the time or the energy to go through that list. However, it was a great question and an important one as well.

Before answering, I asked the group what they thought. Were there things that leaders needed to stop doing, and if so I asked them to come up with a list of five. It took the group no more than ten-minutes to easily jot the mistakes and missteps they have seen leaders make. And to create the list of those things they believe leaders should stop doing.

After listening to everyone’s ideas, as a group we came up with five. The five things we believe are most detrimental in leadership today, and the five things every leader must stop doing if they want to be successful.

  1. Stop Thinking This Is Business As Usual

First and foremost, stop thinking this economy is the same. The biggest mistake we felt leaders make, the biggest challenge to their success is not typical things such as competition, regulation or lack of customer loyalty. No, the biggest challenge, the biggest obstacle to success is most leaders are using out-of-date strategies and techniques. Leadership skills that were designed for a very difference economy and a very different employee. Leaders need to understand this is a new marketplace, one that calls for a different strategy and a new kind of leader.

  1. Stop Being In Charge

Leaders today need to realize that employees don’t want someone to be in charge. They want someone to lead the way. What is the difference? A leader who is in charge makes all the rules, all the decisions and determines the road to success. The leader who leads the way determines the destination, but allows the team members to determine the path. Thus, giving team members skin in the game.

In today’s marketplace, your greatest competitive advantage, in fact your only competitive advantage, is the quality of the people on your team. Top talent wants to feel part of your organization, they want their ideas to be heard and they want their work to matter.

  1. Stop Focusing Inside

Leaders today need to realize that the majority of things that could impact the growth of their organizations lay outside the organization. Things like regulation, consumer confidence, gas prices, technology, competition and the list goes on. A change in any one of those things could radically impact your ability to be successful.

So, leaders need to focus less on what’s going on inside their businesses and more on what is happening outside. The role of the leader is now more like that of the captain of the ship. You have to have an amazing crew running the internal workings, so you can be focused looking outside for those things that could positively or negatively impact your ability to succeed.

  1. Stop Sticking To The Plan

As a leader, you need to have a plan and you need to be focused. You just don’t need to be so committed to it that you are not open and willing to change. When leaders stop focusing inside and start seeing the opportunities and challenges happening outside the organization, they must be flexible to take advantage of those. Leadership today is about being radically focused on what you want to accomplish, while still being nimble enough that you easily flex and change when the marketplace demands it.

  1. Stop Spending Time Alone

In a world that is moving fast, and one where the only constant is change, leaders need to stop spending time alone. Relationships are key to the success of any organization. And, leaders need to be paving the way, building relationships with customers, vendors, peers and most importantly employees. The more leaders invest in others, the more others will invest in the organization.

So there you have it, the top 5 things leaders need to stop doing in order to succeed no matter what this economy does. Those are our ideas, what are yours? We would love to hear what you think leaders do today that negatively impacts their organizations. What holds their employees back and prevents them from succeeding no matter what this economy does?

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Growth, Employee Engagement and tagged , , ,

Why Your Customer Service Strategy is Failing

 Okay, that title is a bit strong, I agree. But, I wanted to get your attention. I want to talk about customer service – why it is vital to your success, and why so many organizations are going about it all wrong. These past few weeks I have been traveling, keynoting and consulting in Southeast […]

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Why Your Customer Service Strategy is Failing

 Okay, that title is a bit strong, I agree. But, I wanted to get your attention. I want to talk about customer service – why it is vital to your success, and why so many organizations are going about it all wrong.

These past few weeks I have been traveling, keynoting and consulting in Southeast Asia. Working for organizations and associations in Singapore, Bangkok and Cambodia. An amazing experience, complete with adventure, travel, and the opportunity to work in these emerging cultures with young leaders who are eager to learn.

When I started my journey, I was worried that my message would not translate or be valid in cultures that I perceived to be so different than ours. I could not have been more wrong. I quickly learned that no matter where you go in the world, the issues, with a few exceptions, in business and in life are basically the same.

Keynote after keynote, presentation after presentation, my audiences had the same questions about how to engage employees, increase sales and improve the customer experience. These are cultures where growth is rampant, competition fierce and the battle for talent is a constant struggle. The leaders here get it. They know that the better their customer service, the better their opportunity to compete and win.

In Singapore, they wanted to know how to get the “customer to choose them” over their competitors. In Bangkok, it was how to determine what the customer experience should be. And in Cambodia, it was how do we engage our employees in the customer service process. Before answering their questions, I had a few of my own.

I wanted to know what had these leaders had done within their organizations to make it better, to improve the customer experience. They shared the training programs they had created, the trainers they had hired, and the policies and procedures they had put in place. While all these leaders had seen incremental improvement, none (just like in the U.S.) had seen the results they really wanted. That was the answer these leaders wanted. That was the secret formula they were looking for. What does it take to really increase customer service results?

Well I think creating amazing customer service really comes down to one thing – just one thing. It is not sexy, and it is not even all that exciting. The key to creating amazing customer service is – ready – drum roll please… Listening! Yep that is it, just listening.

If you want to understand how to make someone (your customer) happy, then listen to them. If you listen, not just wait for your turn to talk or to implement the next step in your customer service process, your customers will tell you exactly what they want and need. They will tell you what they value, what is important and what their definition of great customer service is!

See, that is the catch, and that is the rub with any customer service “plan,” – one size does not fit all. What you need to deliver great customer service is not a great customer service plan. What you need, is an employee who can listen. We need to spend more time teaching our employees how to listen, and less time focusing on process and procedures designed for one type of customer.

What does it take to be a great listener?  Just three easy steps…

3 Strategies To Keep Your Customer Service Strategy From Failing

  1. Ask Great Questions

The key to listening is to have something to listen to and for. If you are doing all the talking, you are not listening. Yes, I realize that is as plain as the nose on your face, but you would be surprised how many people don’t get it. You begin the listening process by asking great “open ended” questions.

  1. Stay In The Moment

Practice being present by focusing more on what they are saying and less on what your response might be. When you stay present, you tune into more than people’s words. You tune into their body language, their tone of voice, their expressions etc. And the more present you stay, the better ideas you’ll hear on how to create a completely unique customer experience.

  1. Use What Ya Learn

The final step is to act. You have asked the questions. You understand what is most important to your customers. Now, it is time to use what you learned. Take action! Deliver on the little things that are important to them. Not only will that get what they asked for, but when we act on what we hear people say, we send a strong message that says we care, they matter and this relationship is valuable.

So there you have it, your entire customer service strategy summed up in one short article. Spend time teaching, practicing and focusing on listening. You will build stronger relationships with your customers, your customer service skills will go up and you will drive results. Now that is what I call a return on investment!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Business Growth, Business Strategy & Customer Service and tagged , , , ,

To Get Business – Ask For The Business

4 Basic Sales Strategies That Get Results I just lost a really big deal. Lost it not because I did not have a relationship with my buyer. Lost it not because I did not understand their needs. Lost it not even because my competition offered better solutions or a better product. I lost it simply […]

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To Get Business – Ask For The Business

4 Basic Sales Strategies That Get Results

I just lost a really big deal. Lost it not because I did not have a relationship with my buyer. Lost it not because I did not understand their needs. Lost it not even because my competition offered better solutions or a better product. I lost it simply because I forgot the most important of sales strategies – I did not directly ask for the business.

Here is the story. About a year ago, April 2016, I did a series of keynote speaking engagements for a company. A series of four programs to be exact. They were thrilled, said I had the highest scores among speakers they had hired. They immediately gave me another bit of work, asking me to do a webinar for their staff. Again, I hit it out of the park, and my ratings were off the chart.

The meeting planners told me right away they definitely wanted to work with me again. She also shared they have an internal policy, that they need to “change-up” the speakers every year, so they would be looking to work with me again in 2018. Great, at this point I believe I have it in the bag. I go ahead and put four speaking gigs in 2018 on my calendar.

Not one to take a deal for granted, I marked my calendar to do systematic follow-ups. That is where my mistake began. Typically, I would follow-up with potential clients using a three to one ratio. Three follow-ups adding value and building our relationship balanced with one follow-up about me and asking directly for the business. But this time I was so sure, so positive that I had the deal that I never bothered actually asking for the business. I just followed-up building the relationship.

I have to say my follow-ups were brilliant! One of the meeting planners was having surgery. I sent her flowers and called two weeks later to see how she was doing. I hit every holiday with fun cards and things to make them laugh. I had two articles published in industry related magazines, and shared those both to add value and reinforce my expertise. And the list goes on, we were fast becoming good friends.

Every contact I made they responded, and responded enthusiastically. So, when March rolled around (2017) I knew they would be planning for 2018, and I waited for them to reach out to talk business. When no one did, I sent another fun card and a new video I had released. Both meeting planners reached back out giving me high praise and thanking me for the share.

Thinking things were on track, I let it sit for a few weeks. When the first week of April came, I started to get a little worried, but still I did not want to push. I figured they were just behind in their planning. By mid-April no word, I got my first clue I might have missed my shot. Two-days ago, I decide to finally pull the trigger and just flat out ask about working together again in 2018.

The response I got still makes me a little sick to my stomach. How could I have been so dense as to not actually ask for the business. “Meridith, we would love to work with you again, our attendees loved you. However, our schedule is full for 2018, you know us we plan ahead. Please reach out for 2019, and do not be a stranger until then.”

What a lesson, and what lesson that I learned the hard way. I had done so much right, hit every step of how to get business accept the obvious one – actually ask for the business. Trust that I will not make that mistake again, and here are four basic sales strategies to ensure you do not make it either.

4 Basic Sales Strategies That Get Results

1. Build Relationships First – before you can ask for anything, you have to build relationships with your prospects. The only reason people do business with you is because they know you, they like you and they have a relationship with you. So, slow the sales process down and invest in connecting with your prospects and building the relationship. I had this piece down, both meeting planners I had both a personal and a professional relationship with, and in doing so I had positioned myself well to get the deal.

2. Understand The Needs – invest in asking a lot of open ended questions and really listen. That means be present, and not just waiting for your turn to speak. If we pay attention to our prospects and listen to what they say, we will discover not only what they need, but the order in which they want it. Selling to prospects based on their urgent need builds trust. Again, I had this down! I knew what my prospects wanted in terms of new programs and some ideas of how they wanted this delivered. There was more demand for webinar, and more demand for audience interaction.

3. Sell Results – once you understand the need, you are clear on what they want and the order in which they want it you are ready to position the deal. Position it to close that is. We all hear we need to sell solutions, and while that is true we need to also sell results. What is in it for them, what will be different for them, and what is your prospects return on investment. In other words, how will their problem be solved, their business grow, or in my world their audience be impacted. Again, I had this nailed! We had discussed several times the new programs I was doing, and how they matched exactly with some challenges or information their attendees requested. I also “lightly” shared some new audience interaction and engagement I was doing. Saying “lightly” because I did not want to be too pushy – I say regretfully.

4. Flat Out Ask For The Business – last but not least you need to actually ask for the business. If you have done the above three steps (and you MUST do them and in this order) you are ready to ask for the business. If the relationship is built, you understand the need, you have positioned the results your prospect will get, then you are well positioned to aggressively ask for the business. My mistake – I assumed – and in assuming I lost the deal. I assumed because we had a relationship, because I clearly understood the need, and that I had sold results that I did not need to actually ask for the business. I was wrong.

The one thing that I love about sales is that you can always learn and you are always growing. For me, this growth was a little painful, but believe I will not forget this lesson. Follow these four steps, do them in order, and watch as you open more doors and close more sales.

What are your stories or lessons around asking for the business? I would love to hear!

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