Category Archives: sales challenges

How to Pack a Healthy Lunch in Less than 10 Minutes

busineswomaneatinghealthyIn this day and age, it has become increasingly difficult to find time to spare, especially when it comes to making time for exercise and eating healthy.

What most people don’t realize is that packing your own lunch doesn’t take as much time as you may think.  We all know that packing a healthy lunch can save us inches on our waistline but a lesser known fact is that it will also save you money and time that you would have otherwise spent at a restaurant.

This “time constraint” is how most people rationalize the fact that they simply can’t be bothered to put the effort into eating healthy. This is especially the case for people who work on the road and travel frequently for business who also have the luxury of being able to expense their meals.

Contrary to popular belief, it actually takes less time to prepare a healthy lunch (snacks included) than to eat out, so quit using convenience as an excuse to eat out!

Let’s face it, most people believe that it is a lot more convenient to eat a restaurant than spend the time planning and preparing your meals for a day on the road but the fact of the matter is, you can spend less than 10 minutes making and packing a healthy lunch and snacks which is far less time than you would spend in a restaurant.

For example, if you stop for a coffee and a snack in the morning and the afternoon at a coffee shop, you will spend at least 5 minutes if not more at each shop. If you stop for lunch, this can take in excess of an hour if you go to a sit-down restaurant.  Even if you went to a fast food joint for lunch, that will likely take at least 10-15 minutes between lining up to place your order and actually receiving your food.  In the least, if you dine out all day long you will spend a minimum of 20 minutes of your day simply waiting for food.  That’s significantly more time than you need to prepare something much healthier at home!

I will share with you some examples of healthy snacks and meals that I would typically prepare and bring with me for my average day on the road.  They are all very quick and easy to prepare so there are no excuses!

What you will need:

  1. Insulated lunch bag or coolerlunchbagw icepack
  2. Ice pack(s) if packing perishable items
  3. Utensils (Ideally an all-in-one fork/knife/spoon combo)ForkKnifeSpoon
  4. Napkin or paper towel

 

 

Snack Options:

snacks

 

Snacks with Zero Preparation:

  • Protein Bar
  • Can of tuna
  • Whole fruit (apple, orange, pear, etc.)
  • Protein Powder (single serving sample)

Snacks with Minimal Preparation (Hands-on Time <1 min):

  • Protein Powder: This can be mixed into a small bottle of water or milk. I will put a single serving of protein powder into a Ziploc bag and after I am finished my coffee in my thermos, I put the powder into the thermos and mix with water that I have brought or buy a small carton of milk at a convenience store to mix with it.
  • Boiled Eggs: As you prepare your things in the morning, boil some eggs. It takes a few seconds to put them on the stove and the same to remove them from the stove. If you’re concerned about time or forgetting them on the stove, simply boil them the night before. They will be safe to eat for several days after cooking.
  • Loose fruit and veggies (grapes, berries, carrots etc.): Simply rinse them and put them into a Ziploc bag. The Ziploc bag can later be used to dispose of your eggshells, protein bar wrapper or other small trash items.
  • Nuts: Grab a small handful or count out a single serving and place into a Ziploc bag.
  • Cheese slices: Can either be wrapped in saran wrap or placed in a Ziploc bag. Note that if you do pack cheese slices, don’t forget to include an ice pack.

Snacks/Meals Requiring a Moderate amount of Preparation (Hands-on Time: <5min):

YogurtParfait

  • Greek Yogurt Parfait: This is my staple snack in the morning! To make it, place your oatmeal in the microwave (2-5 minutes depending on the Oatmeal), add frozen berries and microwave for an additional 1-2 minutes, add 2-3 TBSP of 0% Fat Greek Yogurt and place into a Tupperware container.  Don’t forget to put on an ice pack and pack a spoon!
  • Salad: If you keep it simple (lettuce that you simply have to rinse, tomato, pepper, etc.) it will take under 5 minutes to prepare.  I usually make 2-3 at a time so I don’t  have to make a new one every day.  For dressing I put a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small Tupperware container that I place within the Tupperware containing the salad. Don’t forget to bring a fork!

Sandwiches: Try to make it as healthy as possible. Here are a few ideas:

Chicken/Turkey & Swiss:

  • 2 slices of multigrain/whole wheat bread
  • 3-4 slices of low-fat, low-sodium chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese (regular Swiss is low fat)
  • Garnishes: tomato, lettuce, onion, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments: mustard, low-fat mayo- Only use small amounts (<1tsp each) not just because of calories but because if you eat in your car like me, the last thing you want is to get covered in mustard or mayo before your next meeting!

**Tip:  Place the meat on the bottom, the garnishes in the middle, topped by lettuce, then cheese slice in order to prevent your sandwich from getting soggy.

Tuna

tunasandwich

**TIP: This should be made on the spot in your car because if made in advance, the bread or wrap will become so soggy and fall apart by the time you go to eat it!

  • 2 slices of multigrain bread or 1 multigrain/whole wheat wrap prepared in advance with a layer of light mayo or light plain cream cheese.
  • 1 small can tuna (single serving with peel-off lid). Apply to prepared bread with your spoon and enjoy!

*Note: an alternative to preparing the bread in advance with low-fat mayo or cream cheese is to pack a single serving of low-fat cream cheese in a small Tupperware container and mix with the tuna. I thought it sounded gross at first but it is delicious, low in fat and an excellent source of protein!

Not sure how much and what specifically to pack?

Be sure to incorporate a protein source in EVERY snack and meal! Protein will keep you fuller longer and doing so will help stabilize your blood sugar levels. My personal trainer gave me this advice and it helped me reduce almost 1000 calories per day from my diet and I was less hungry than before!

As long as you’re eating some sort of protein, you can eat small snacks every 2-3 hours. Constantly fueling up on healthy foods throughout the day not only helps improve your energy levels, cognitive function and overall health but it also helps boost your metabolism.

So to answer the question, “How much to pack? If you will be gone the entire day, try to bring enough for at least 4 snacks ( 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon) as well as a lunch (if you don’t have a lunch meeting).

I hope that you found some of these ideas useful and that you will incorporate them into your next meal en route.

Unsure about how healthy your snack and lunch combo is? Need some tips on how to make your lunch healthier?

Subscribe to my blog and and contact me with all of your questions.

Travel safe my friends and don’t forget to eat healthy while you’re at it.  Time is on your side!

Cheers,

TSW

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5 Surefire Ways To Lose Your Best Sales Representatives

iquitWant to Keep Your Best Sales Reps? Don’t Make these Costly Mistakes!

The average sales representative changes employers every 2-3 years At any given point in time, I know at least a handful of sales representatives who are looking to make a move.

Why? Because companies make the same mistakes time and time again that cost them their best reps.

What are they doing? In almost all cases, companies are trying to cut costs and increase profitability. The problem is, if you cut costs, service, quality or both will also be sacrificed to some degree.

The most common complaint from managers and business owners that I have heard is that their commissioned sales representatives are making too much money.

BusinessmanBurningMoney

What is wrong with this statement?

If your commissioned sales reps are making a lot of money, it’s a good thing! It means that their sales are good and the company as a whole is making more money. Reps on a 100% salary are another story entirely!  So, the problem is that companies of this mindset are simply being greedy and short sighted thinking that they can try to squeeze the highest level of productivity out of their sales force for a minimal investment.

Some sales managers alike may take issue with the representatives they manage who are making more money than them. Rather than taking pride in being a good manager and celebrating the success of their sales team, they see this as a bruise to their ego and then make detrimental changes to how their reps are compensated.

Whether you are a business owner, VP of Sales or a Sales Manager be sure to avoid making these hefty mistakes which will cost you your best reps and maybe even your entire sales force.

1. Cutting and/or Capping Commission

paycutLooking for a way to slowly poison your sales force and give them a prolonged, torturous death? Cut their incentives or better yet, cap them all together! Salespeople work on incentives, so if those incentives are taken away or significantly reduced, they will either work less or look for work elsewhere immediately.  Some but very few reps will persist and try to work harder to make what they were making previously but that will not last long.  They will eventually leave or burn out and then leave.

2. Territory Realignment

salesterritoryTrying to figure out a way to cheat your reps out of reaching their targets so you can save on paying out those commissions and bonuses? Shift their territories around every 6 months to 1 year.  That way nobody has been in their territory long enough to qualify for their commission or the reps who would have been entitled to a hefty commission, no longer have that account in their territory after the change so they are no longer eligible to receive it.  This strategy also makes it impossible for the sales reps to maintain any working relationships with their clients which is a substantial part of building the business.  Clients don’t want to meet a new rep every year.  It screams that the company is unstable and therefore potentially unreliable. Not only will the business as a whole suffer from this strategy, but it is also more than likely that the company will also lose their entire sales force. If a sales rep has no chance at making their commission or bonus, they will leave.

3. Unreasonable and Unachievable Sales Quotas

Dangling-CarrotFeeling a little sadistic and enjoy dangling that carrot in front of your reps and moving it further and further out of their grasp? Give them a massive increase in sales quota that none of them will be able to achieve.  I have seen well established companies that have been in business for decades implement a new sales target that is 10 to 20 times their previous target for products and services they have always sold and seen regular 3-5% annual sales increases. If a company increases a target, it must be a realistic target that can be achieved by at least 50% of the sales force.   Implementing completely unreasonable and unachievable sales quotas most often results in the resignation of the entire sales force. Afterwards,  good luck maintaining those regular sales increases!

4. Reducing Sales Support

phone off hookWant to leave your sales representatives to hang out and dry? Cut back on their support. Sales people are out there all day long pounding the pavement, pushing the company product or service on their clients and often a situation arises where the rep needs assistance from a manager or from customer service.  When companies make cutbacks in this department, the rep is left completely to their own devices and do you know what most of the good reps will start to think? “Why do I need to work for this company? I’m doing everything myself so I should just start my own business!”. Alternatively, some reps may opt to jump ship and work for another company, perhaps even one of their competitors, who offers better service and support.

5. Dramatic Change in Management Structure and/or Style

DrEvilProjectManagerWant to take your company to the next level? Do it wrong and you’ll take the company to the next level downward! There are multiple ways companies can implement changes to management structure and style.  The most common mistake I have seen are companies that have historically given their reps a fair bit of freedom (and where the reps were successful in that environment) change to a micromanagement system in order to increase accountability and profitability.  This is flawed because simply some reps thrive in a micromanaged environment and some do not. If you change your management style, you will also likely need to hire an entirely new sales force that will fit nicely in that environment rather than resist it.

So if you are reading this article looking for ways to eliminate your entire sales force of “overpaid” sales representatives (without firing them so you don’t have to pay severance) and replace them with entry-level newbies who you can pay 1/3 of their salary, you may have found this article helpful. If that is the case, I hope that neither myself or anyone I know ever works for you.

On the other hand, If you have a great sales force or even just one or two star individuals and want to keep them, avoid making these costly mistakes. It takes a significant amount of time and money to hire and train the right representative, so why put yourself through this process time and time again?

If you need to cut costs, try to look elsewhere in the business where you can implement cost cutting mesures or better yet, try to explore other means to increase your business. Thinking out of the box can be difficult but it can also be immensely rewarding.

In summary, it takes money to make money.  Same goes for people who you invest in as employees.  If your people are doing well, don’t cheat them but rather reward them accordingly. Investing in great employees is a solid investment in your business.

Happy sales my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

 

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When Your Product Demo Goes Horribly Wrong:

Epic-Fail-newspaper-stack

My Epic Failures Selling Capital Equipment

Back in the day, I used to sell medical devices and I have to admit that I hated it.   The only thing I liked about it was the hefty commission but even that was just a one time deal.

For those of you who have ever sold capital equipment, you know how exciting it is to finally get the opportunity to do a product demonstration because if your demonstration is a success, it is highly likely you will be able to close on the spot.

If you’re like me and slightly neurotic (ok maybe highly neurotic), the night before you spend countless time testing the heck out of your equipment to make sure it is working properly so that your demonstration goes smoothly the following day.  But even if you do that, there is always a chance that something can go wrong and not only ruin your potential to make that sale, but possibly to even be welcomed back down the road.

Product demonstration day is a make it or break it day.

When I was selling blood analyzers, I had to look professional and carry the following into a clinic in a single trip:

  • Analyzer #1 (50lbs) which was on wheels and 2ftx2ftx2ft in dimension. I secretly referred to this as “The Big Prick” although I never shared that with anyone of course
  • Analyzer #2 and #3 (35lbs in total) in a bag that went over my shoulder
  • A detail binder

Most of the time, nobody helped me with the door either. I tell you, it surely wasn’t easy to get all of that in the door on your own and try not to break a sweat or the equipment (if it gets jammed in the door as you enter)!.

I always envied the pharmaceutical reps who sat in the clinic waiting room beside me who held a simple piece of paper or detail binder alone.  Lucky bastards, I thought.  This was a huge reason I decided to go into pharmaceutical sales! Then at least I could go back to wearing heels. You just can’t wear high heels when you’re carrying that much gear. I digress.

After sitting in the waiting room comes the second most nerve wracking part, setting up the equipmentYou have to do it fast to make sure it doesn’t look to complicated and correctly on the first go.  This may take a lot of practice.

Then comes the most nerve wracking part, the actual demonstration!

My Epic Failures in Product Demonstration:

Epic Fail #1:

cbc analyzerOne time I had set up all 3 pieces of equipment and “The Big Prick” decided to leak all over the place!!! (Pun not intended but realized post-script) And I’m not talking about a small drip, the fluids (reagent solution) were just flowing out of the bottom of the machine as soon as I turned it on to prime it Of course this was the precise moment when my client and all of her staff walked into the room and saw everything!  I tried to explain that a small tube must have gotten loose during transport, so I opened the machine up to try and identify the location of the leak and well, my client saw how many tiny little tubes were inside this device and decided that it was all too easy for something to go wrong and regardless of what I said, they were no longer interested.  I packed up and left. Next!

Epic Fail #2

BLOOD WORK RESULTSOn another occasion where I had set up the equipment correctly, the client wanted to run some test samples on the device.  Although it was calibrated beforehand, for some reason the results on my machine were all completely out of range.  They even ran the same sample using two other testing methods (outside lab and their existing equipment) and those matched. But unfortunately, my equipment was off.  Way off. Since our main selling feature was the accuracy of the machine, I lost that sale and was not welcomed back.

 

 

Epic Fail #3

dental sprayI also used to sell dental equipment, which included electrical scalers and compression-powered polishers. At a dental seminar we were sponsoring, another rep and I set up all of the devices on a side table and while the speaker was presenting, one of the machines suddenly would not stop spraying water out of the tip!  We tried to maintain our cool (mostly trying not to burst into laughter!) and avoid attracting any attention so we had to take turns holding this leaking piece behind our backs during the presentation and during breaks when the attendees were visiting our station to view our equipment.  Fortunately nobody noticed!  Sweat, sweat, sweat!

Those are just a few examples but these types of things happened on a regular basis. Although I must say that in defense of the equipment, I’m sure I wasn’t always handling it in the most delicate manner at all times which didn’t help *ahem* *ahem* but what rep does???

I struggled with the fact that even though I may have been a good salesperson, if the equipment you are selling doesn’t do what it is supposed to and align with your sales presentation then the odds of you making the sale are slim to nil. I’m sure there is room to be creative and try to win the buyer back but if I test drove a new car that was malfunctioning, I most certainly wouldn’t buy it.

In the end, I decided that capital equipment sales were not for me, but it sure was a learning experience!

If you have sold capital equipment, I would love to hear your product demonstration failure stories and what you did to overcome it.

Happy Sales!

Cheers,

TSW

 

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How Poor CEO Decisions Impact Sales Reps: The VW Recall

An Interview with Aaron Hansen, Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen.

Volkswagen-TDI

If you are a sales representative, sales manager, or other front-line staff, there is nothing worse than finding out the head of your company made a huge mistake that reflects poorly on your company.  In some cases, you may have a head’s up of the bad news and have time to prepare, be proactive and inform your clients directly before they find out from a 3rd party, however this is not always the case.

As most of you are aware, Martin Winterkorn, the recently resigned CEO of Volkswagen, had approved the decision to install software on over 480,000 “clean” diesel vehicles in the US between 2009-2015. This software only activated the cars’ pollution controls during emissions testing (while on a hoist) which has now prompted a world-wide recall of nearly 11 million vehicles. This was obviously a fraudulent means to pass the rigorous EPA standards in the US and will end up costing VW up to $18 billion.

Most certainly, this is not the first scandal of its time, especially in automobile history.  In my opinion, the majority of large corporations are guilty of some sort of fraudulent activity, just not all of them get caught.

Where I feel pain, is for the sales people.  They had no say in the executive decision whatsoever yet have to deal with the wrath of chaos the CEO’s have created for them. No matter how bad the news, the sales reps have to suck it up, put on a happy face, keep smiling and continue selling.  I have been there and it’s not easy.  For those of you who are in this situation, I would recommend reading my previous article on The Rumor Mill: How to Grind it to a Halt Before it Hurts your Business.

In this article, I have interviewed Aaron Hanson the Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen here in Canada to get his take on the incident and how he and his sales force are handling the matter.

TSW:How did you find out? Did you have any advanced notice or time to prepare?”

AH: “No head’s up at all.  I saw it on the news the morning before I came into work.”

 

TSW: “How did you and your team react to the news?”

AH: “We were all stressed initially but the fact of the matter is, we sell the cars, we don’t build them. This is not the first or the last time this has happened to a car company. Regardless of what it is in the news, VW is still a great brand that we all have faith in.  We have always and will continue to focus on great customer service. It is a small upset so we just persevere, with smile!”

 

TSW: “How do you stay positive?”

AH: “Easy, we are still alive! It is what it is.  Only 30% of our sales were TDI models and the rest were gasoline powered.”

 

TSW: “How do you feel this news will impact sales now and in the future?”

AH: “Unknown. It is only 5 days in, so it is too early to tell.”

 

TSW: “What sort of message have you been relaying to new and existing customers?”

AH:  “All our TDI customers (whose contact info we have in our database) were contacted immediately. We sent everyone a message informing them of the news, if their vehicle was affected and encouraged them to call us with any questions and concerns.”

 

TSW: “What kind of responses have you been getting?”

AH: “99% Positive. Almost everyone took the time to reply and say thank you for the follow-up. They were really appreciative of the proactive approach that we took.”

 

TSW: “What have you been saying to new potential customers who come into your dealership?”

AH: “We are completely upfront with them from the get-go.  So far, none of them are really concerned. They all still want to buy! The primary reason people buy our diesel vehicles is because of the fuel economy and they buy from us because of our excellent customer service.”

 

TSW: “Since your reps are 100% commission based and have specific monthly quotas for different vehicle types (diesel, gasoline, used), will you still be upholding those targets or adjusting them?”

AH: “Right now, it is unknown how this news will impact sales because it is too early to tell.  That being said, we are being flexible and seeing how and if sales will change.”

Based on my interview with Aaron, I think he is doing the best a sales manager or representative could do when faced with this particular situation. If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend you follow this example.

Aaron has been my sales rep at Volkswagen for the past 10 years.  I have purchased 3 cars from him, 2 of which were TDI’s, so am I concerned about my TDI vehicle or the VW Brand?

No.  I am a trusted and true VW fan and as I said previously, most major corporations lie and engage in some sort of fraudulent activity and so did VW. So what? What else is new?  I still love my car and I still stand by the fact that I think the VW Passat TDI is the #1 Vehicle for Sales Reps.

I did not buy my car for “green status” which it was never eligible for here in Canada anyway.

I did not buy my car so that I can drink water out of the exhaust.

I purchased my VW Passat TDI because of the fuel economy, handling, comfort and because of the excellent service I have always received from Aaron and staff at Cambridge Volkswagen.

A great sales rep can go a long way, and in most cases can be more important to the consumer than the company they represent.

I would love to hear from other sales reps about how you have dealt with a similar situation where your company has received some negative press and what you and your team did to overcome that.

Happy sales my friends.  Remember, even when times get tough, keep persisting and keep positive no matter how hard it may be.

Cheers,

TSW

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Cold Calling in a Foreign Language

language barrier

You Think Cold Calling is Tough? Try Doing it in a Foreign Language!

When I first stared at this job and began to grow the business across Canada, there was a huge gaping hole in my territory.  That gaping hole was the French-only speaking province of Quebec.  Two years into my position I came to the point where I couldn’t avoid it any longer.  I wanted to continue to grow my sales and I knew that market was untapped and full of opportunity.

Why did I avoid it for so long?

Because I don’t speak French! I had only ever taken basic French up until Grade 12 so I knew some of the basics but far from what I needed to know to try and conduct business.  The French knowledge that I did learn in school was pretty much useless because for some reason here in Canada, they teach you Parisian French but in Quebec they speak Quebecois French which is essentially another language.  I have met people who have moved to Quebec from France and they have told me that it took them almost 2 years to pick up the dialect.

NoIdeaWhatYoureTalkingAbout

So I did what I normally do when confronted with something I don’t like to do, tell myself, “Suck it up Princess!” and just do it!

So I came up with a plan:

1. Translate all Literature into French. I opted to do this as a sign of respect for their language and I’m glad I did because I later learned that in Quebec the government has a “Language Police” division that will fine companies who correspond with Quebec companies in English before French.

2. Write a Cold Calling Script Using Google Translate. The script I created was a general introduction which included:

  • My name, company name and my role (single sentence)
  • What my company does (single sentence)
  • Ask if I could send them information and for them to provide their contact details

3. Cold Call Using My Script in French and hope and pray that I could understand the contact details they gave me!!! If they said anything else, I was totally lost and couldn’t understand!

4. Mail or Email Literature. This was the easy part!

5. Follow-up Call – SKIPPEDYes I skipped the follow-up call because even if I could figure out how to ask the right questions, there was no way I could understand what they would say to me in response!

6. Schedule a Face-to-Face Meeting using a New Script In this script which I once again wrote with the assistance of my new best friend Google Translate, in which I:

  • Asked if they received the information I sent them. I could understand oui (yes) or non (no)- Yay me!
  • Mentioned that I will be meeting with other practitioners in their area on DAY X or DAY Y and if they would have time to meet with me. I wrote out all of the days of the week in English and French so I could have a quick reference at my side. I did happen to know my numbers in French so that helped with setting appointment times.
  • Confirmed the date and time of the meeting, hung up the phone and hoped for the best!

7. Show up for the Meeting and hope to God that I Understood Correctly!  Was I at the right place at the right time? Did I get a meeting with the decision maker? Hoping that the receptionists (who only spoke French) didn’t ask me any questions or try to initiate a conversation. Sweat, sweat, sweat!!! I tell you, a business card can go a long way when you can’t express yourself properly.  When the front desk staff would try to engage with me, all I could do was smile and say, “Parlez-vous Anglais?”. Usually that just ended with a “non” and we sat there awkwardly as I tried to keep my palms planted firm on my legs as to make sure my hands weren’t too sweaty when I went in for that handshake with my new potential client.

8. In the Meeting Hope that the Client Speaks Some English. Most of my clients in Quebec are also trained in English so as long as you put some effort in to speak French then politely ask to converse in English, they will be more than willing to try.  A lot of these conversations involved us sitting together using the Google Translate app on our cell phones in order to properly communicate! In some cases we would find one of their staff members who had an excellent command of both languages who would act as our translator.

What was The Biggest Obstacle I  had to Overcome? Pricing Objections!

For those of you who read my recent article “The Pricing Objection: What it Really Means and How to Overcome it” you will know that I always try to focus on creating value rather than focusing on price.  In this scenario, the language I would normally use to convey value was too complicated to be “dumbed down” sort to speak into basic English. So where did that leave me? Struggling with pricing objections.  All they wanted was price and when they saw that my prices were higher, we suddenly had nothing else to discuss, or rather could not carry on a conversation about anything else because of the language barrier.  Can you say awkward? 

At this point, I’d lost on price and was unable to convey value as I had always done, focusing on product quality and service.  So now what?

This is when it pays off to listen to your clients, even if you can’t fully understand them because as it turned out, there was something I could do to create value for them.

They were all asking me if we had anyone at the office who spoke French.  At the time, my company didn’t have anyone who spoke French but neither did my competitors.  So I made a call to my boss and asked him if he would be willing to hire someone who is bilingual if I get some business and he agreed.

9. Make a Deal- “If you give me 50% of your business, my company will bring on a French-speaking customer service representative.” And that did the trick. It got me into the province and from there I was able to come back and grow it into a very lucrative territory, with the help of our new bilingual customer service rep of course.

So I am sure most of you are thinking, “I will never be in this situation so it doesn’t apply to me.”, and sure you are right to some extent, however the take home message I have for all of you sales people out there is that if you want to succeed in sales:

  • Grow some balls, “Suck it up Princess” and get out there no matter how intimidated you are.
  • Always listen to your clients (even if you can’t really understand them!).
  • Be creative and think outside of the box, always striving to find solutions to your clients’ needs.

Happy sales my friends…and don’t be shy!

Cheers,

TSW

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The Price Objection: What it Really Means and How to Overcome it

Your price is too high!

In my 10 years’ experience as a B2B sales professional, I can say with confidence that any client who initially objects to your price and uses that as an excuse not to purchase your product or service simply brushing you off.

After all, saying “Your product is too expensive” is much more polite than saying “I don’t want to buy your product. Get out of my office!”

So what do you do?

For starters, do NOT be sucker and immediately drop your price.

suckers

If you simply sell based on price alone, you are an order taker. Sorry to break it to you but there is no ‘salesmanship” in giving your best price and taking an order. Any customer service agent on minimum wage answering a phone can do just that!

The most important “sales training” I have ever had is working for a company selling higher priced products at a non-negotiable price point.  Rather than focusing on price, I’m forced to focus on the quality and service that my company can deliver.  To properly relay that information and translate that into a sale, requires work and that my friends, is salesmanship.

Clients have to realize that they can’t have everything and by everything I mean the best product at the best price that is delivered with the best service.  At best, most companies can offer 2 out of the 3.

projectTriangle

 

Let’s walk through the process through a general scenario.

EXAMPLE SCENARIO:

 You’re in front of a client for the first time, introducing your company and product portfolio. You’ve established what products your client uses from your competitor and you proceed to inform them that you offer the same or a similar product/service.  Prematurely, your client interrupts you and asks you your price.  When you give them your price, they tell you what you already know, “You’re price is too high.”

There it is.  You could interpret this in one of two ways:

  1. They are right. I’m not getting this sale.  I can’t beat the price, so I better move on. 

OR

2.   Game on! Now the real selling begins!

I hope none of you sided with option 1.  If you did, you either need more training or should consider changing careers.

So, game on!

Here is What You Should Do to Overcome the Price Objection:

1. Be Firm: Don’t negotiate your price. Others pay full price, so why should this client be an exception? If you have other clients in the area that this client would happen to be competing with who happen to be using your product of focus, make that known. If those direct competitors of your client aren’t using your product yet, make it known that you will be calling on them afterwards,  All the more reason that “you” don’t really need the business as much as they think you do and therefore have no need to budge on price.  Reverse psychology can go a long way.

2. Elaborate: Focus on other features and benefits that your company can provide (i.e. better service, higher quality).

3. Be Creative. If you are in your clients’ environment, look around for clues that might give them reasons to use a product from your portfolio that they may never thought of using before. Sometimes I’ve been in a clinic and see a list of things they are looking for. Simply pointing that out and mentioning that I can offer one of those items has gotten me the sale many times.  On the other hand, if you are meeting outside of their working environment be sure to ask them more questions about their business while in the back of your mind searching for products or services you can offer them.  Once this dialogue is open, you’d be surprised at how open most people are.

4. Ask For the Sale: As you scan through all of the potential products your client could purchase and they demonstrate interest, be sure to ask for the sale.

5. Be Persistent: This is where I have the most fun. Once you’ve gotten them to order one product, why not ask for more? Laugh and have fun with it.  Your client knows that you are there to sell them something so they expect it. If they haven’t ordered anything yet, keep asking! I have no shame in asking for the sale multiple times in a single call. I think my record was asking for a sale 10 times in one call.  After striking out 9 times, when I asked the 10th time, I finally got the “Ok, you got the sale!”.  I realize full well that he may have done that to get me out of his office (another brush off, yes I know!), but regardless I did get the sale, was welcomed back and continue to get more business.

Always keep in mind that if you can get at least one of your products or services in the door, that leaves that door open for you to come back and acquire more business, so don’t give up at the slightest objection.

Experiment: If you are used to selling on price alone, for one day or one week conduct all of your sales calls as if you are not allowed to budge on price.  I would love to hear your results!

Happy sales my friends!

Cheers,

TSW

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When To Fire A Client

Whether you’re in sales or own your own business, making the decision to fire a client may be one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make in your career.  After all, you’ve worked so hard to get the business, so why throw it away?

Well, in some cases, you may actually be losing revenue by continuing to service certain clients.  Whether it is the actual time or the energy that you invest into an account, it all adds up.  Your time and effort are worth money. If you find yourself calculating how much time you’ve invested in an account and don’t see a proportional financial return on your investment in that client, it may time to cut them loose!

The best clients are those who bring in the most revenue with minimal effort and not vice versa.  Sure there are always circumstances where you initially have to invest a lot of time and effort to get a client on board , however you have to make the call as to whether or not it is worthwhile for you to continuing to focus on that client or move on to a potentially more lucrative opportunity.

So how do you decide when to put your foot down and decide when enough is enough?

You may opt to fire your client if they:

  1. Don’t Pay their Bills

Ever heard the notorious “The cheque is in the mail”? It’s almost laughable.  Once a client’s account gets seriously behind, you have to cut them off. If they really need your product or service, they will come up with the money.

Solution: The best thing to do in this scenario is to put their account on hold and try to arrange a payment schedule. If you have to call on them in person to collect, do it.   When their account is paid in full, begin to service them again but require that pay upfront or at the time of their order. In very rare circumstances, clients may completely avoid you and in that case you have no choice but to send them to collections.

  1. Ask or Expect You to Cross any Professional or Ethical Boundaries

This could take on a variety of shapes and forms. For example, any client who asks you to do something illegal, break your company policy, lie, cheat, steal, provide sexual favours or anything else unethical in exchange for a sale.

Solution: DON’T DO IT! WALK AWAY IMMEDIATELY! Then report their behavior to your direct supervisor and explain why you will no longer have anything to do with that account. If you are a business owner, simply inform them that you do not conduct business in that manner and they will have to do business elsewhere.  If you give into these requests it may seriously harm your business, your reputation and your company’s reputation.

  1. Complain Incessantly

Every one of you reading this has encountered this sort. No matter how perfect your product or service is, they will find something wrong with it and repeatedly so.  Sure everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but when there are no mistakes made and clients routinely fuss about every little thing time and time again, it may just not be worth the aggravation in dealing with these people.  They will never be happy.

Solution: If you’re totally fed up with them, you can try referring them to your competition however in my experience that doesn’t usually work.  In spite of how apparently disappointed they are with your product or service, they’d prefer to stick around and annoy you.  If that’s the case, just ignore their fussing. Don’t feed the monster.

  1. Use You

These type of clients will drain you of all of your knowledge and resources and push you to your limit because they know you want to make the sale.  It is difficult to identify these types of clients in the early stages because quite often a client will “test you” before they decide to do business with you.  This is perfectly normal and acceptable.  If someone is serious about engaging in a long term business relationship with you and your company, they should do their due diligence and see what you and your company are all about and what kind of service you can provide.  What is not acceptable is if this “testing” behavior persists over many sales calls and they don’t give you the business.

Solution: I call them on it and say outright “Every time I see you, I provide you with a wealth of product and industry knowledge but I know you still buy mostly from my competitor.”. They usually agree and then wonder why they do so. At that point I give them an ultimatum, “If you want the knowledge and you want me to keep coming back, you have to give me the business.  Otherwise, I’m never calling on you again because I will be focusing on other clients who will actually do business with me (who happen to be your competitors). Going forward you can ask my competitor to help you with your questions.” That usually solidifies the business 99% of the time. If it doesn’t, walk away.

  1. Take Advantage of Loopholes and Con You

Ever had a client buy a promo only to return part of it so that they can get a lower volume of product at the promo price and your company didn’t figure out how to deal with that loophole?  Or buy enough product to get free shipping only to return what they didn’t actually need but rather tacked on to their order so they don’t pay freight? Or try to get credit for the same item repeatedly? There are a million examples!

Solution: Since these types usually think they are quite clever, you have to call them on it and not allow them to get away with it again.  You’ll typically be greeted with a smirk and an “I’m better than you“ attitude.  Whatever it is they conned you out of, make sure you find a way to put it on their next invoice.  If they refuse to pay, refuse to offer them product or service. Some people you just have to play hardball with.

  1. Are in Bed With the Competition

Unbeknownst to you, you may end up meeting with a client who has very close ties with your competition.  By close ties I mean a business associate, investor, family member or perhaps someone who literally does share a bed with them, not simply someone who is loyal to a company.

Solution: Once you discover this STAY AWAY!  They will funnel all of your information directly to your competitor and give them an edge on you.  They won’t buy from you and if they do, it’s only to give your product to the competition.

  1. Waste Your Time

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between someone who has a very extensive decision making process  and who is legitimately interested in purchasing compared to someone who has nothing better to do and just wants to play games with you. Some people will even fake a deadline for when they have to purchase when they don’t have any intention of purchasing period.

Solution: Give them a deadline to purchase.  Let them know that after that date, you will be moving on and changing your focus to another product, service or clientele.  This will usually force the client to be upfront about their true intentions.

  1. Disrespect You

You may encounter a client who never listens to you because they know better. They may think they are superior to you in every way and do not respect you or your time.  These types of clients are likely to be a no-show for your meetings, repeatedly.

Solution: If this type of client behaves this way consistently and does not give you any business, move on.  I usually give it 5 attempts then move on to other prospects.  Why so many? You have to give people the benefit of the doubt.  They may be legitimately busy or preoccupied and you might not be calling on them at the best of times.  I will usually try again after 1 year. Sometimes if you wait a while and call on a business at a later time, you might get lucky and they have a new decision maker who might be easier to work with or they may have had a bad experience with your competitor and are more open to change.

I am fortunate that in my business, 99.9% of my customers are awesome to deal with!  I sincerely hope that you don’t face any of these scenarios in your professional career but if you do, make sure to stand your ground because, the customer is NOT always right.

Happy sales my friends and don’t ever do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.

Cheers,

TSW

 

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My Most Awkward and Embarrassing Sales Calls

Have you ever been on a sales call and thought to yourself, “Wow! That was awkward!”? Or “Seriously, did that just happen?!?” and wondered how you were going to redeem your professionalism?

Certainly we have all been there.  Every day on the road is a new day full of surprises: Some good, some bad and some that are just plain awkward. After all, we are all human and well, $%!# happens! These are some of my most awkward and embarrassing moments on the road.

  1. Intruder! Intruder! I’m Calling the Police!

bank robberSince I call on mobile doctors, almost half of my sales calls take place at their home office which is usually in a rural area.  One time, I had arrived at this doctors’ house before he arrived. I knocked on the door and there was no answer.  So went back into my car and proceeded to call him on his cell to see if he was going arrive soon but he did not answer.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, his wife was in the house and was in a complete panic.  She did not know I was coming and instead thought that I was some intruder who had been harassing her over the phone for the past few days.  She couldn’t see me in my car because I have tinted windows, so she assumed it was this “bad man”.  She frantically called her husband to say that she was calling the police because that “bad man” was at the house. Fortunately, she got ahold of him before she called the police and he told her that it was just little old me, the Travelling  Saleswoman who he was supposed to be meeting at the house.  He arrived shortly thereafter and informed me as to what was going on.  I met with him and his wife while she calmed down.  That sure made it hard to switch gears and focus on “selling”!

  1. Mixed Signals: The Handshake or The Kiss?

woman-rejecting-man-online-datingI had just finished a meeting with a client at a restaurant.  We walked outside into the parking lot and just as we were going to part our ways, I put my hand out for a handshake.  He went in for the handshake AND in for a face-plant of a kiss! Yikes!  I withdrew my head back so far that I lost my balance and because I was wearing heels on the icy pavement, I slipped backwards and fell flat on my ass.  I quickly got up and said goodbye and he scurried back to his vehicle.  How embarrassing! Needless to say, I never met with him again.  In my meetings that followed, I was asked about how I got my beautiful wool coat covered in salt and slush. I said I just slipped on the ice going back to my car. It wasn’t a total lie.

  1. Can You Drive Me To The Optometrist?

woman itchy eyesIt was a 3 hour drive to my first appointment of the day.  I was wearing contact lenses and my eyes were starting to feel very dry.  I had 5 minutes to spare so I stopped by a pharmacy and picked up some Visine (for red eyes), put the drops in and promptly hit the road again.  As I was driving, I noticed that my vision was slowly deteriorating.  Everything was getting really, really blurry.  I was getting quite worried but I knew that I was really close to the clinic so I continued on.  When I arrived at the clinic and met with my client, I could barely see.  I explained my situation to him and he told me (as if it was common knowledge) that Visine for red eyes is contraindicated with contact lenses because it can cause the lenses to melt on the cornea! I felt so embarrassed for not knowing that, especially because I have a background in pharmacology.  DUH!!! So I sucked up my pride and asked if someone could give me a ride to the nearest optometrist and fortunately he did.  Needless to say I didn’t do any “selling” on that call!

  1. The Jockey Swarm

horse jockeys

It was my first meeting with a veterinarian at a racetrack where I hadn’t been before.  I didn’t know exactly where the office was located in the backstretch, so I made sure to show up 10 minutes early.  In the backstretch, there must have been at least 50 jockeys.  I was immediately approached by several of them offering to help me find my way.  They led me all over the place saying things like “Oh, I think it’s right around the corner..”  and “I think he’s over here”.  They trotted me around like I was a horse getting ready to hit the track and we were going in circles.  I clearly stuck out like a sore thumb and felt as though I was walking through a boy’s locker room. Several of them came up to me asking “Are you the drug rep? Do you have samples???” to which I quickly replied, “No, I’m here to see the vet.  Where is the vets office?”.  After almost 15 minutes, one jockey FINALLY led me to the office which was literally steps away from where I had entered the main building.  DUH for me not noticing that!!!  At this point I was late for my meeting and had to explain that all of these jockeys led me astray.  I was a tad flustered by the time we actually sat down to do business!

  1. The Leg Wrestling Match Challenge

women_legwrestlingI was sitting in the waiting room of a clinic for an appointment with my client. The waiting room was quite busy and one of the doctor’s clients approached me and asked me who I was there to see.  I told her I had an appointment with Dr. D at 4pm. She threw her hands up into the air and said “Well, that’s too bad for you! I’ve been here all day and I am supposed to see Dr. D at 4pm!”, to which I replied, “This is Dr. D’s clinic, so she gets to decide who she sees first.”.  The lady didn’t like this answer so she says to me. “Screw that! How about we have a leg wrestling match and the winner gets to see her first?”.  I didn’t want to say anything too inappropriate. After all, I am a professional saleswoman right? But I couldn’t resist saying, “I’ve never had a leg wrestling match before, but lady, I’ve got really long legs so get prepared to lose!”.  At that point the doctor came out into the waiting room and said she would like to meet with me first.  I sure dodged that bullet! There definitely is a first time for everything!

  1. Countdown to Vomit Valley

HourglassAt a restaurant in YYC, I caught the Norwalk Virus.  By the time I arrived in Vancouver, I was getting quite ill. Fortunately the worst of it happened over the weekend so I didn’t have to cancel any of my appointments due to illness.  However when Monday came around I was still able to function in 1 hour bouts. It was like clockwork- precisely every hour almost on the dot, I would get sick. So I sucked it up and made it to all of my sales calls but forewarned my clients with, “Hi, I have the Norwalk virus so I won’t shake your hand.  I also only have exactly 30 minutes for our meeting because I will fall ill again and need to use the facilities in precisely 1 hour, so let’s get down to business!”  Such a lovely intro I know.  But I figured, I’d rather be honest and still be able to do my job.  My clients understood and it didn’t impact my business at all.  It just felt awkward to have to introduce myself along with the status of my gastrointestinal tract. Classy!

  1. The Match.com Déjà Vu

awkward faceAt one point I was regularly surfing Match.com.  For any of you who have ever used dating sites, you probably know that after a while you see the same faces over and over again.  So one day, I walk into a clinic where I had a meeting and I see a guy there who I’d seen several times on Match.com but who I never messaged. He had obviously recognized me as well since we both looked at each other and went “gulp”, as in “Oh God, please don’t say you saw me on Match.com!”. The doctor I was meeting with saw us exchange this awkward look in silence and asked bluntly, “Do you guys know each other?” to which we both quickly replied, “No, no”. At least my meeting wasn’t with him and he wasn’t a decision maker.  That would have been even more awkward!

  1. You’re Not My Rep, You’re the Service Tech

pink tool kitI had sold this clinic a piece of medical equipment.  Unfortunately, this device had so many problems and my company was unable to offer them a loaner or a repair service so I had no choice but to try and troubleshoot and fix it myself! As I mentioned previously, I have a pharmacology background, not one in engineering! However, using a little common sense, my little pink purse which held my tools and a voltmeter, I was able to fix it. I have to admit I was sweating profusely the entire time hoping I wasn’t going to break it!  But I didn’t.  I was quite proud of myself. The only lousy thing about it was whenever I had scheduled a sales call with the doctor, all of the staff just assumed I was the technical service rep and they took me away from the doctor to ask for help with the device! I tried time and time again to explain that I was actually the sales rep but all of that was to no avail.  I mean I always wore a suit- What tech service person shows up in a suit???? But to them, I was always, the service tech.*sigh*

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about my most awkward sales calls.  Fortunately I only have 8 in my 10 years on the road.  That’s not too shabby in my books.

I would love to hear from other sales reps about your awkward and embarrassing experiences on the road.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends and try to keep your cool, whatever happens.

 

TSW

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The Rumor Mill: How to Grind it to a Halt Before it Hurts Your Business

broken windmillWhether you are self-employed, in upper management or on the road as a sales rep, the last thing you probably want to hear is a rumor about your business, especially one that has the potential to negatively affect you and your company.

Most of the time, my clients will come to me directly when they first hear a rumor, be it good or bad.  Other times when for instance, I am on a sales call, if seemingly out of nowhere, my client starts to bombard me with questions about our industry and my company’s integrity, I know something serious may be going on.  If I have travelled from clinic to clinic to face the exact same questions over and over again, then I know for certain that I must investigate the matter further.  This typically happens when I’m trailing the route of a competing sales representative and for the most part, that is part of normal healthy competition.   However, sometimes that is not the case at all. It may very well be the beginning of a PR nightmare.

Rumors are a dime a dozen in my industry and I often feel that in any aspect in life, the more successful you are, the more prone you are to attack.

As some of you may be aware, I work for a small business. Although the bulk of my job is in a sales capacity, I am also responsible for all of the marketing, business development and public relations management for the company. This means that as soon as I catch wind of a potentially negative rumor that could affect my company and ultimately my sales, that I need to take that saleswoman hat off, and put my PR hat on.  I have to get down to the nitty gritty of it all and devise a plan to sort out all of the facts and relay the correct information to my clients ASAP before the rumor mill gets out of control.

I have to admit that public relations and “damage control” is the most challenging part of my job.  The reason being is that I take a lot of pride in my work and the company that I work for and I just can’t stand false accusations, especially when I have to take time away from selling to deal with them. I’ve been with my current employer for so long because of the ethical and upstanding way that the company does business and that is a huge reason for the company’s success.  Since its fruition, I have spent several years building and nurturing the business, so when false and threatening rumors start to mill about, I feel like I want to lash out like a Momma bear protecting her cub from a pack of wolves.

Angry-Bear-Grizzly

…But that wouldn’t be professional, so I digress.

In this article, I will discuss the different types of rumors, why they start and how to stop them from getting out of control and hurting your business.

Note: If you are a sales representative for a corporation and do not have decision making authority, I strongly recommend that you do NOT take matters into your own hands, but rather gather all of the facts you can and immediately report them to your sales manager. Only act under direction of your supervisor otherwise it may cost you your job.

INDIRECT RUMORS:

extraextraphoto

These rumors although not directly related your company, may have trickle-down effects that can affect your business. I have broken them down into two categories: Industry Related and Mistaken Identity

 

 

Industry Related

These rumors come about when a leading company within a specific industry has acted in a manner which has subsequently caused them or a particular product to receive negative publicity.  If such acts have caught the attention of national or even international media, this may instill fear in the consumer who does not use the company in question but does conduct business in the same industry. 

For example, several years ago one scientific study published results which claimed that people who supplemented with Vitamin E had higher mortality rates than those who did not.  Even though this study was very poorly done and was not conclusive, the media blew it out of proportion and broadcasted that “Vitamin E Kills”.  My father, who owns a nutrition store, saw a huge decrease in his Vitamin E sales as a result even though it had nothing to do with his business or a certain brand of product that he sold.

Unfortunately, in these cases the business owner or sales rep ends up on the defense, having to defend the legitimacy of the product or service they are selling.  In business, the best practice to overcome these random and potentially harmful rumors is to be proactive. Ensure that you are routinely keeping up with current events in your industry and regularly educating your clients so that they will trust and value your opinion rather than succumb to the latest gossip.

Mistaken Identity

These rumors most often involve a direct competitor and can be quite a nightmare to straighten out.  For instance, let’s say in a niche industry where you may have two main competitors who may even have very similar company names (i.e. ABC Corporation and ACME Corporation), if one of those companies were to be exposed for having done something illegal or unethical, the other companies may be “guilty by association”.  In these cases, clients may easily confuse which company is “the bad guy” sort-to-speak or just be reluctant to use any of those companies out of fear that they may all be conducting business in the same manner.

If this happens to your business, the best thing to do is to get in front of your customers either face-to-face or by means of intense advertising to remind them of your business and what sets you apart from your competition. Remind them of your excellent quality, service or whatever it may be. Keep your head up, keep it positive and act like you are unaffected.  Playing your cards right in this situation may end up increasing your sales, especially if you can take some of that business from your competition.

 

2. DIRECT RUMORS (Targeted)

Target

This is an unethical, malicious attack conducted by an individual or an organization intended to harm a business.  It is also illegal and violates many codes of professional practice.  Although these types of rumors are rare, they do happen. I have seen this behavior in sales representatives, business professionals, and even some companies who do this in a desperate attempt to “win” back their market share.  If you have ever considered doing this, don’t! The egg will wind up on your face.

I hate dealing with these cases because it is such an absolute waste of everybody’s time. If you fall victim to this childish behavior, just laugh it off and clarify the facts.  If you have a solid relationship with your clients, they will believe you.  If the accusation is a serious potential threat to your business, then you will need to devise a solid PR strategy and may need to obtain legal advice.

If you are faced with any of these types of rumors or perhaps one I haven’t mentioned, follow these general steps to stop the rumor mill before it gets out of control:

  1. Qualify the Rumor: Is it a legitimate threat to your business? If not, just laugh it off. If it could be, proceed to step 2
  2. Find The Facts: In speaking with the person who brought the rumor to your attention (and no one else), ask the 5W’S: WHO,WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. Document everything in detail. Do NOT provide your opinion or commentary prematurely as that could further harm your business.

Some examples of questions to ask could be:

WHO did they hear it from? Was it first hand? Or second hand? Make note of any names in case someone may be guilty of slander. Knowing how far off from the source your client heard the rumor could give you valuable insight into how far it has already spread and how much damage could have potentially been done.

WHAT exactly did they hear? Be as specific as possible. Was it something that was covered in the media recently? Was someone in particular saying bad things about you or your company?  Or is your client just worried about something in general?

WHERE did they hear this? Were they amongst other clients of yours?

WHEN did they hear it? If it was a long, long time ago, it likely isn’t relevant anymore. If it was recently, how recently? Rumors spread very quickly, so if you are the first person they talked to about it, you have a good chance at grinding that rumor mill to a halt before it gets going.

WHY did someone say the things they did? Did the person sharing these rumors with your client share them out of concern or ill intent?

  1. Decide on the Most Appropriate Medium(s) to Present the Facts:  This will depend on your specific type of business.  Will you create a press release? Or target specific clients? Will you discuss it face-to-face? Or simply via a letter or email?
  1. Bombard Your Clients with The Facts: You can use one type of media or several. Regardless, make sure that your clients are crystal clear about the situation at hand.
  1. Consult a Lawyer if Necessary. If you are dealing with an individual or corporation who may be slandering you or your company, you should obtain legal advice.

I hope that none of you have to deal with these types of scenarios in business, but if you do, I hope you keep this article as a handy reference and find these tips helpful in grinding that rumor mill to a halt!

Happy sales my friends and remember to keep your head up and be professional!

Cheers,

 

TSW

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