Category Archives: Sales Tips

Various tips to help you become the most effective salesperson you can be.

Cold Calling: How to Bypass the Gatekeeper

gatekeeperAn Approach that Will Guarantee You More Meetings with the Decision Makers!

It is typically in the salespersons best interest to befriend the gatekeeper and other staff in order to get to the decision maker.  But what if, as a salesperson, you need to get to the decision maker and their staff cannot know any details about your business venture? How do you access the decision maker without getting you butt kicked out the door by trying to go over the gatekeeper’s head?

The majority of sales gurus these days will tell you that cold calling is dead, especially face-to-face cold calling. If that describes your situation, be sure to read my previous article on The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling.  So, although this may be the case for a variety of industries, there are some that do in fact require employing this brut methodology in order to access the decision maker.

In my current role, I have been faced with this dilemma.  I have always been accustomed to being friendly and open with all staff and best utilize those relationships in order to ultimately reach the decision maker however, now my business is of an utmost confidential matter and it is crucial that I do not share the nature of my business with anyone but the decision maker.

After getting the door slammed on my ass on the way out of a business a handful of times, I decided that I needed to revamp my approach.

Empty ClinicOne prime example that stood out in my mind was when I went into a clinic that was clearly empty.  There were no cars out front, no patients in the waiting room and clearly no patients in the treatment area.  When I asked the receptionist if I could speak with the doctor for a minute, she hemmed and hawed and asked me if I had an appointment. When I told her no, she told me that he was VERY busy but she will check. She went out back and returned to inform me that he was so busy and doesn’t have any time this week.

This experience was akin to walking to an empty restaurant and the hostess asks you if you have a reservation.  In sales, having thick skin is a MUST!

So what did I decide to do?

The Strategy:

1. Write a handwritten note card in a sealed envelope addressed to the DM

Before my next round of cold calls, I picked up some blank note-cards and envelopes.  In each card I wrote a personal note:
“Dear ______

Sorry to have missed you today.  I was hoping to catch you to talk to you about a business opportunity. I will be in town (UNTIL DATE OR WILL BE BACK AT DATE) so you can call or email me anytime.  Talk soon. Sincerely,

TSW”

On the top flap of the card, I attached my business card with an adhesive  (double-sided sticky) so that the card can be easily removed.

The card is inserted into an envelope and the DM’s name is written on the front of the envelope.

2. Conduct cold call with envelope in hand and business card in back pocket

I show up at the clinic and approach the receptionist in a friendly manner and say “Hey I’m (NAME HERE). I have something for (DM NAME HERE).  Is he/she available for a quick minute? I have something for them”

If they check and the answer is YES (wohoo!):

I put the envelope away and ask to speak to the DM privately for a minute and then give them my business card that’s in my back pocket and try to arrange a private meeting.

If they check (or don’t ) and say NO:

Give them the sealed envelope and ask that they kindly pass it on to the DM addressed on your card and mention that you will be calling the DM soon to follow-up.

Since it is addressed to the DM personally and hand written, even if the receptionist does not know you. the way you presented yourself is as though the DM does.  For this reason, the receptionist or gatekeeper is highly unlikely to open the envelope or toss it out.  Furthermore, mentioning that you will be touching base with the DM  regarding what you have enclosed in this envelope will make it even more unlikely that it will be tampered with.

So far this approach has gotten me call-backs and appointments 75% of the time. 

Surely much more effective than a phone call or random email!

If you are in this type of sales, I would love for you to try this and let me know how it works out.

Also if you have any other tips, please share!

Happy sales my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

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How and When to Effectively Leverage the Power of Guilt to Close a Sale

judge hammer

…or at least lunch!

Let’s face it, not all clients are easy to deal with.  Some can be outright d!@$’s and sometimes as a salesperson that means you’ve got to play hard ball in order to close that deal.

Like most sales reps, I have had my fair share of moments where a client completely ticked me off, however it is definitely not always appropriate to react.

In sales, rejection is part of the game.  We all need to deal with it and be able to handle it. By handling it, I mean brushing it off and persisting and hence why my motto is “Suck it up Princess!”

But what happens when your client or potential client abuses your working relationship or acts unprofessionally?

In extreme cases which I have previously discussed, it may be more appropriate to simply fire your client.

In other situations however, it may be more appropriate to bring the clients bad behavior to their attention and try to leverage that into a sale.  Below are some examples from my personal experience where I did just that. They are in no particular order.

Problem Clients and How I Managed Them: 

Problem Client #1: The “No Show”

My “Guilt Trip”: Call them and outright tell them that I don’t appreciate being stood up and that they owe me a good order, or at the very least that the next time that I’m in town, they can buy me a meal.  90% of the time, I got a really good order. The other 10% of the time I got a meal or at least a drink out of the ordeal.


Problem Client #2: The “I Want to Have My Cake and Eat it Too”.  Not giving me the majority of their business after years of effort they asked me to pull strings to get them a good Christmas gift.

My “Guilt Trip”:You’re making me look bad in front of my boss”, which I said with my boss present when we were delivering their Christmas gift.  After that visit I acquired 80% of their business.


Problem Client #3: Returning My Product in My Competitors Packaging

My “Guilt Trip”: I mailed the box back to them and included an order form and a hand written note stating that it was rude of them to do that and I think they owe me one *wink* *wink*.  They faxed in a really good order and ended up being a very loyal client. 


Problem Client #4: The User Abuser: Exploited me for my knowledge but only ever bought one product from me.

My “Guilt Trip”: I barely had to say anything since he was fully aware of what he was doing and had a good idea that this was likely our last meeting. He looked at me and blurted out, “I’m an ass*^** aren’t I?”. I nodded my head in agreement and informed him that all of the free bits of information end here and now unless he starts to buy more products from me. It worked. That move got me over 90% of their business after that and they ended up being a very loyal client.


Problem Client #5: The Stuck-In-the Habit Excuse: Competitor programmed into speed dial.

My “Guilt Trip”: I told him that it was a lousy excuse and asked him to hand me his phone. I programmed my business number in the slot where my competitor was and moved my competitors phone number to a different slot.  I did the same thing with his fax machine. 100% Effective.  I acquired all of his business after that.

In reading my examples of when I thought it was appropriate to guilt trip a client and try to leverage that into a sale, I hope that you understand that this is by no means common practice. These client behaviors and my subsequent responses are rare and I would never suggest using guilt as a primary means to close your average deal. These situations are highly specific and apply when a qualified buyer has done something to blatantly disregard and waste your time and/or disrespect you.  As I  mentioned previously, rejection is integral to the sales process and by no means should you be putting a guilt trip on every potential client who refuses your product or service.

When you are a sales rep, your time is valuable too, so if you encounter someone who is blatantly wasting your time, perhaps you should move on or call them on it.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends and I hope you don’t encounter too many difficult clients.

Cheers,

TSW

 

 

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To Email, to Call or to Text: That is the Question

Shakespeare_ComputerAre you sending emails to schedule simple phone calls? If so, you are wasting your time!

Do you often email your customers or prospects in order to set up a time to have a phone conversation? Have you sat down and calculated the efficiency of this approach?

I find myself increasingly frustrated with the number of people who instead of picking up the phone, will send an email to schedule a time for something that would be a very quick conversation. This commonly results in several back and forth email messages with alternate times and then ultimately one party may cease to respond.  Days if not entire weeks may pass and to no avail. All of this could have been avoided by simply picking up the phone and having a 1-2 minute phone conversation or the message could be relayed in the form of a text message.

Why Email is Ineffective?

study conducted by the Radicati Group in 2015, illustrated that the average business user sends and receives an average of 122 emails per day, a number that is expected to increase to 126 messages by the end of 2019.  As no surprise, the average email only has a 20% open rate and a shockingly low response rate of only 6%.  This means that for every 100 emails you send, only 20% (20 emails) are being opened and of those 20 emails, only 6% (1 email) are being replied to.  That works out to 1 email reply for every 100 emails sent, so essentially a response rate of 1.2%.

Alternatives: Phone Call or Text Message?

According to a study by eWeek, 80% of people are currently using texting for business however, studies have shown that only 2531%  of people prefer text messages to phone calls.

The most preferred business activities conducted by text messaging according to the Harris Poll are:

  1. Checking order status (38%)
  2. Scheduling or changing appointments (32%)
  3. Make or confirm reservations (31%)

It must be noted that all of the above imply that there is an existing or soon to be existing business relationship.

In the sales process, texting can lead to conversion gains in excess of 100% however texting a prospect prior to establishing contact with them can not only adversely effect contact and conversion rates, it may also be illegal depending on the state or province you reside in.

That being said, how do you know when the most effective means of communication is to call, text or send an email?

When to Send a Text Message:

  • You have an existing relationship with your client
  • Your client has directly provided you with their cell phone number
  • Your message is brief, uncomplicated and only requires 1 or 2 basic single-sentence responses (i.e. setting up, changing or confirming a meeting time, following up on an order, etc)

When to Make a Phone Call:

  • You do not have an existing relationship with a prospect
  • The prospect or client did not give you their cell phone number directly. If you received their cell phone number from a 3rd party, they likely have no idea who you are so call them and speak with them first.  If you simply do not have their cell phone number, call their office number.
  • The subject matter you would like to discuss is more involved than and exchange of 1 or 2 sentences

When to Send an Email:

  • You have had a conversation on the phone or via text message and the recipient has requested additional information and/or details in the form of an email. Although the response rate for email is still low, if the prospect or client has requested it and knows to look out for your email, your response rate will increase. Sending unsolicited email is illegal in Canada and can result in fines of up to $1M for individuals and up to $10M for corporations.

In this day and age, it is all too easy to hide behind a computer screen.  As a result we, are all constantly bombarding each other with online messages and emails and in my opinion, they have simply lost their effectiveness as a communication tool.

So let the take home message be, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make a call.  Since most people don’t do that anymore period, that act alone will make you stand out among your competition.  We are all human beings and require some sort of true human interaction and relationships whether they are personal or business in nature, require that interaction in order to grow and flourish.

Happy sales my friends and the next time you’re tempted to hide behind your computer screen and send an email, remember that there is only a 1% chance it will even be replied to, so suck it up Princess and pick up that phone!

Cheers,

TSW

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6 Common Barriers to Sales Success

manfacingbrickwallIs there a brick wall impeding your path to sales success?

Most sales people experience some sort of struggle achieving targets at some point in their careers.  In many cases, this can be due to the company’s lack of proper management, support, or setting their reps up for failure by creating unrealistic targets however that is not always the case.  All too often, underachieving sales representatives may point the finger at their superiors as the reason for their failure and simply because it is easier to blame someone else than it is to accept one’s own weaknesses and take the steps necessary to improve.

Last month, I wrote about “5 Sure-fire Ways to Lose Your Best Sales Reps” which focused on common mistakes that companies make when managing their sales reps which typically cost them their best employees.  Today, I will be focusing on the other end of the spectrum and outlining some of the most common problems that salespeople face which can impede their performance.

Some common barriers to sales performance include:

1. Fear of rejection and Lack of Confidence (inability to execute):

RejectionThis is THE #1 obstacle that all sales people must overcome. In sales, you are confronted with the possibility of rejection more than almost any other profession and it takes many shapes and forms. For instance, one may fear that in spite of their efforts, clients may simply ignore their calls and emails, say “no” when asked for the order or just tell them to buzz off entirely. It’s easy to get bogged down by such negative results, but in sales, you have to pick up your head and move along to the next prospective client. So, as I always told myself,Suck it up princess” Move on and pick up that phone or get back to pounding the pavement and keep in mind that as the common saying goes, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”.

The best thing you can do, is take the correct course of action.  The next best thing you can do, is to take the incorrect course of action. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all.

2. Difficulty prospecting and qualifying leads: 

CustomerSearchingSo many sales people say, “Get me in front of the client and I will close!” but how does one get this opportunity of they do not prospect properly or effectively and fill their pipeline with qualified leads? That’s right, it doesn’t happen.  In order to find new prospects, the easiest and most effective means is to obtain referrals from your existing client base. In the event that you have already exploited your existing network for new business referral, you will have to stick your neck out there and find new business and start cold calling. Yup, that’s right, I said cold calling, the biggest source of fear for sales reps fearing rejection.  I suppose that is why so many self-proclaimed sales experts who hide behind a computer all day are claiming that cold calling is dead. In my opinion, those people are just too chicken s%^& to pick up the phone and cold call! For tips on how to cold call with tact, read my post on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling”. Once you have filled your pipeline full of new prospects, you must learn how to qualify those leads in order to ensure you are most effectively utilizing your time and resources.  For some tips on how to qualify leads, be sure to read “How to Qualify Leads and Not Get Lead Astray”.

3. Ineffective Communication:

confusedcustomerIn sales, it is absolutely essential to listen to your client more so than it is to pitch them your product or idea. You must understand your client’s business, their needs, wants and their language.  If you spend your entire sales call talking AT your client, you will never get the sale.  A two-way dialogue is essential to close a deal.  In addition, if you bombard your client with corporate jargon or industry buzzwords that only your company knows, you will never be able to communicate value to your client. You might as well be speaking another language.

4. Disorganization & Inefficient Work Process:

messypaperworkTime is money and money is time. Mismanage that and it will be detrimental to your success. Each day, sales people are bombarded with multiple emails, phone calls, meetings, follow-up requests, reports and if these tasks are not organized and prioritized in some fashion, most of those tasks will never be completed correctly or at all. I obviously can’t summarize this massive topic in one paragraph but in summary, in spite of how amazing your memory may be, be sure to always make a “to-do list” and block off areas in your calendar to complete all of your tasks even if that means seeing one less client each day or having a dedicated office day.

5. Too Much or too Little Information:

businessman-with-head-in-the-sandSome companies provide their sales representatives with far too much information and literature without any focus provided by management. I once worked for a company that had hundreds if not thousands of products. My entire trunk was full of literature.  There was a general focus, but even that limited it to a few hundred products. Sure there was always something to sell, but it was overwhelming. I eventually just picked a handful of products that I focused on exclusively. On the other hand, some companies provide close to zero information to their reps. This can be dangerous for the company because who knows what the rep will end up saying to their prospective clients?

6. Unhealthy lifestyle:

womaneatingwhiledrivingSurprised to see this make the list? You shouldn’t be. Most sales reps are on the road for the majority of the day which makes it very difficult to find time to eat healthy and exercise. Over time, these poor health choices will affect one’s physical and mental well being which will ultimately cost you in your personal and professional life.  For tips on how to improve your lifestyle en route, be sure to read my posts on How to Eat Healthy on the Road and How to Keep Fit on the Road.

Hopefully in reading this, if you are in sales, you are not impacted by any of these barriers to any significant extent.  If you are struggling and confronted with potential job loss, it may be time to hire a sales coach. Contact me and learn how I can help you improve your sales game!

Happy sales!

Cheers,

TSW

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The Handwritten Note in Sales and Business: A Lost Art

Handrwitten CardYear after year, each Holiday Season less and less people are mailing out Holiday Cards.

Why? Because it’s so much easier and cheaper to just send a Holiday Greetings email or to post a Holiday Greetings picture on your website or email signature.  Sure you can send a Holiday Greeting email blast out to hundreds of clients and track who opened the email but is that really effective? What is your return on that investment?

I personally find those sorts of impersonal messages totally meaningless.  All it says is that the sender is too lazy or cheap to spend the minute or two to actually write a note in a card. I may spend 1 or 2 seconds to look at the email and think, “oh, ok” and promptly delete the email without further thought.  After receiving many of these in addition to the dozens of other emails I receive on a daily basis, it is likely that I have completely forgotten who even sent me that email greeting within a few days.

In today’s modern society it is all too easy to send a text or an email. Even if we need to “write” a formal letter, that letter is typed, never written.  The closest thing that most of us do to handwriting is signing a document or receipt. I bet most people these days don’t even remember how to do cursive handwriting! Try it!

A step-up from the impersonal mass email greeting are greeting cards that are pre-printed to include a personalized message (you can only have one of course) and your signature so it “looks” like you signed it.  This is a bit better than an email but I’d still toss that card right into the trash.

That being said, if you are in sales or run any sort of business it speaks volumes to your clients if you actually send them a card with a handwritten note.  Sure it is a total pain in the butt and is time consuming but it shows that you care about your client as an individual and are willing to put the effort into expressing your appreciation.  It is a small gesture but it can go a long way.

Furthermore, since nobody seems to actually write greeting cards anymore, you may be the only one to give your client a hand written gift card which will make you stand out in their mind.

If you have hundreds of clients, sure writing out personalized greeting cards to every single one of them is not an effective use of your time, however as a rule of thumb, you should send out personalized cards to your top 20% accounts or at minimum or your top 10% in addition to prospects which have the potential to be in your top 20%.

Not sure what to write?

Here are some tips on how to write a simple and effective note in a greeting card:

  1. Address the receiver by name (i.e. Dear John)
  2. Include your general message: If sending multiple cards, write up 2 or 3 different versions of this message so you aren’t sending everyone the exact same statement. Keep the statement brief (i.e. 1-2 sentences)
  3. Write a brief personal statement . This can be something that only applies to this particular client. It can be a reference to a joke between the two of you or something as simple as thanking them for the specific number of years they have been your client.
  4. Sign your card

A personal touch can go a long way.  Remind your clients this Holiday Season that they aren’t simply a number to you or your company but rather a valued client who you can relate to as a person. In spite of how technologically advanced our society has become, people still like to buy from actual human beings and put a face to the company they are dealing with.

So this Holiday Season, If you haven’t sent out your greeting cards just yet, there is still plenty of time to do so! But if you missed the boat this year, try to plan on doing it for next year.  In the meantime, it is also a great idea to send a hand written thank you note to a new client or one who has recently made a large purchase.

Happy writing my friends!

Cheers,

TSW

 

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How to Keep Your Cool During a Heated Sales Call

womanyellingatman

Just because someone is having a bad day, it doesn’t give them the right to take it out on you!

When you walk in to meet with a client, you have absolutely no idea what kind of day they may be having.  Heck, you might be having a terrible day yourself.  Regardless, sometimes sales calls can get quite heated and escalate to the point where you could lose the business if you don’t handle yourself properly.

If you have been in sales for any length of time, you most certainly have encountered a client who is rude, belittling and/or who outright criticizes your company, product/service or even you personally.  There are a multitude of reasons why a client may act this way and it could range from anything such as problems at home, difficulties with other employees, issues with a supplier, legal troubles or they just saw your primary competitor in the hours or days prior who planted seeds of doubt in their mind.  The fact of the matter is, you won’t really know unless they feel comfortable enough sharing this with you. If they don’t, don’t ask.  If you don’t have a very well established rapport, don’t meddle in their business.  Do what you came to do, sell your product or service.

So what happens when your client gets out of hand and says or does something unacceptable?

In order to make sure you keep your cool and maintain professionalism, do the following:

1. Know Your Product/Service Inside Out

knowledgableThis should go without saying but before you go into any sales call, be sure you are an expert on whatever it is you are selling. If you can’t remember everything, be sure to contain supporting data or documentation in your detail binder and have it ready for demonstration.  Be sure to know exactly where each article is located in your binder in order to avoid fumbling around, wasting unnecessary time and looking like an unprepared fool.  Being prepared will enable you to keep calm and address your clients’ comments and concerns directly and precisely.  If they catch you off guard and say or ask you something that you don’t know how to reply to or don’t know the answer to, simply acknowledge that you don’t know and will have to get back to them.  If they get more irate by that answer, then reschedule the follow-up meeting immediately in order to diffuse the situation.

2. Do NOT React.

woman-covering-mouthThink, THEN React. It’s only human nature to snap back and lash out at someone who acts out at us in a negative way but you must control this urge.  It will get you nowhere besides kicked out the door and never welcomed back.  Think about what it is exactly that your client said that you found offensive or untrue and ask them why they said what they did.  Are they misinformed? Remembering details incorrectly? If they don’t provide you with a straight up answer, do not react or engage further. You can try to joke with them but I urge extreme caution in doing so, especially if you don’t have a well-established relationship with that particular client because you have no idea how they will react. If you are unsure, opt to redirect the conversation back to what you are selling.

3. Keep Focused on Your Product/Service

business chartAlthough it might be difficult, try to keep focused on what you are selling.  This will reduce the likelihood of any further provocation or outbursts from your client.  It also removes any emotional stimuli from the interaction.

4. Find a Reason to Follow-up (Take a Break and Reschedule)

Reschedule Word Circled Day Date Calendar Delay Cancel AppointmeIn the event that you are unable to keep the meeting focused on your product or service, you should end the meeting and reschedule for a later date.  You can directly inform your client that based on how they are acting or feeling, that perhaps it would be best if you met another day the following week to discuss.  An indirect approach would be to inform you client that you will be able to bring something of greater value to the next meeting (create an excuse to have a follow-up meeting) and would like to make arrangements to do so.

5. Smile and Try to Make a Joke

woman telling a jokeIf you do this right off the get-go, it can go 1 of 2 ways: Either it will totally piss off your client or it will make them laugh and relieve their tension.  Regardless, it’s a gamble.  If you’ve already ended the meeting and rescheduled, that would probably be the safest time to make a joke but again, only do so if you are pretty darn sure how your client will react.

Whether you are in sales or any customer service type of role, it is only inevitable that you will encounter difficult customers and how you react (or don’t react) will determine whether or not you will keep those customers.

Growing up, I worked for my father who owned his own business. He had always told me , “The customer is always right.”.

When I was 16 working as a receptionist at an animal hospital, the head receptionist told me “Just because someone is having a bad day, don’t EVER let them take it out on you! There is no excuse.  If someone is rude to you, you have my permission to kick them out. No questions asked.”

I never forgot that advice.  It was empowering to be able to stand up for myself and not have to be treated like a doormat.  Nobody should be treated that way.

That being said, you can use all of the tips in this article to try and diffuse a situation with a difficult client but that isn’t possible all of the time.  In a previous post, I discussed “When to Fire a Client”.

So, happy sales my friends and just remember, you don’t ever need to take abuse from anyone.

Cheers,

TSW

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6 Important Factors to Consider When Negotiating Your Next Sales Job

handshakeFinding that ‘perfect’ sales job is no easy task.  Most jobs have a straight forward description, offer a clearly defined salary and occasionally benefits.  Sales jobs on the other hand are complicated to negotiate. Even if you have an approximate dollar figure in mind that you need or want in terms of an overall dollar figure, it isn’t always so easy to calculate and get to that figure. This because in addition to base salary, there are multiple other areas of compensation and factors to consider including but not limited to:

  1. Sales Territory

LocationMapAside from monetary factors, the territory is probably the most important factor to consider and should be broken down as follows:

  • Geographic Location

You must be OK with the location of your territory.  For instance, I was fine with covering all of Canada but because my clients were not concentrated in major cities.  My job had involved a significant amount of travel by air and on country back roads and I loved that. If I had to just focus on accounts in Toronto, there is no way I’d be even remotely interested.  You have to decide where you are willing to travel to and how often and if that fits with the position you are considering.

  • Number of Accounts

This can be highly variable.  Some companies require that you manage only 30-50 accounts. I had 600 in my previous territory.  Depending on your time management skills, you may not be able to handle one or the other end of those extremes.

  • Previous Rep History***

This is SO important!! I cannot emphasize this enough.   Be sure to ask your future employer WHY the previous rep left this position and after how long.  Were they liked? Did they do a good job?  Believe it or not, the LAST thing you want to hear was how awesome that rep was and they were in the territory for over a decade! Why? Because you will have an uphill battle the entire time.  Good luck filling those shoes. Not only will your employer have much higher expectations of you, the clients will likely hate you at first because you’re not the old rep that they knew and loved forever.

On the other hand, if the previous rep did a lousy job then you have enormous potential to repair all of those relationships and grow your sales immensely.

If you have a chance, try to get in contact with the previous rep and ask them for their version of why they left.  They might give you some sort of insight into your potential future employer that may be a deal breaker!  Do your homework.

2. Commission Rate and Frequency Paid (i.e. monthly, quarterly, annually)

percent-signTypically commission rates are higher for junior sales positions and/or at start-ups and are usually offered in conjunction with a lower base salary.  The idea being that the rep is more focused on acquiring new accounts.  The more senior sales roles will offer a more hefty base salary and lower commission rate because those territories have been better established and require more nurturing of existing accounts compared to hunting down new accounts.  If you were used to receiving your commission on a monthly basis and the new company only pays it out at year end, you will have to re-do your monthly budget and determine if you will be able to live off of your base salary alone for an entire year. If not, then you can try to negotiate the frequency at which your commission is paid or try to negotiate a higher base salary with a compensatory decrease in commission.

3. Bonus

piggybankNot all companies offer bonuses for commissioned employees however some will offer a year-end bonus for teams who over achieve.  If this is an option, don’t include it in your budget because there is no guarantee that you will receive this.  Consider it icing on the cake.

4. Car Allowance or Company Vehicle

CompanyCarsEven if all of the numbers sound great in your offer, if you just bought a new vehicle and the new company only permits the use of a company vehicle you will have no choice but to sell your car or keep it and suck up the cost.  If you own your own vehicle and the company offers a car allowance, some companies have a policy which requires you to own a vehicle that is less than 2 years old. So even if you get a car allowance, you still may need to purchase a new car.  Car allowance rates are also highly variable.  I have never had one that fully covered my car payments and insurance.  This must also be factored into your monthly budget.

5. Expenses- What is Covered and How will it be Reimbursed?

credit cardsYet another highly available point.  It must be clearly defined what you will be able to expense.  Will it cover just meals? Or all travel costs including fuel?  Some companies insist their reps use a company credit card to cover all business expenses which is great because that means no expense reports! On the other hand, some companies will allow their reps to use their own personal credit cards and require the submission of monthly expense reports.  I always preferred the latter so that I could collect travel rewards and use them towards a personal vacation.  Once again, this is not usually negotiable.

6. Manager Style

badmanagerYou might say, “TSW How am I supposed to know this before I start?” The answer is quite simple and one you should remember every time you go through the job interview process:

The way your future boss treats you in the interview process is how they will treat you as an employee.

Never forget that.

So if you’re completely aggravated by the interview process, you will be just as aggravated if not more as an employee.   

If you are out there interviewing for that next sales position, don’t sell yourself short. It’s better to wait for that perfect position than to just jump into the first job offer that you get.

Happy Sales!

Cheers,

TSW

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Tips for Sales Reps: How to Find the Best Hotels for Your Next Road Trip

BusinessHotel

The majority of sales reps have a territory which is sufficiently large and requires some overnight travel.  If you are new to your territory, it can take some time to find that perfect hotel in each city.  In this article, I will provide some general tips on how to find the best hotels to suit your needs.

As some of you know, in my most recent position, my territory encompassed the entire country of Canada.  When I first started, 99% of the territory was unfamiliar to me and I made SEVERAL bad hotel choices on my first few trips.  I previously summarized some of my worst hotel experiences in my article discussing Why You Shouldn’t Always Trust Hotel Websites.  Based on my experience, I have devised a list of suggestions for selecting the best hotel for business accommodations, if you are in sales or will be on the road at some point in your travels.

Factors to Consider when Selecting your Accommodations:

1. Location

LocationMap

  • Proximity to Meetings: Ideally you should select a hotel that is located close to your first meeting of the day or has easy highway access in order to reduce your commuting time. However, in my experience I often sacrifice this luxury and will stay up to even an hour away from my first meeting in order to stay at a better hotel.
  • Neighborhood: If you don’t know the area, chances are you don’t know the neighburhood. I have stayed at highly reputable hotel chains that are located in such sketchy areas where I felt concerned for my safety getting in and out of my vehicle. You can try to read trip reviews prior to booking in order to ascertain the type of neighborhood a hotel is located in because usually if it’s really bad, people will indicate that in their reviews.
  • Traffic Flow: If I am staying I a major city, I will often stay somewhere where my first meeting is against the regular traffic flow.   Most people commute into the city in the morning and out of the city in the afternoon.  If I stay in the city, I will book my first appointment the furthest west and my last appointment closest to the city such that I am never caught in the bulk of rush hour traffic.

2. Parking

Parking sign.

  • Location: Not all hotels have on-site parking! Heck, some city hotels don’t even have an area to pull up and park while you check –in during rush hour. One hotel I stayed at only had parking in a lot that was 1km away and there was no unloading area during rush hour. Not very convenient when you’re carrying over 100lbs of luggage!  Be sure to call the hotel in advance if the parking accommodations are not clearly described on the hotel website.
  • Cost: Factor this into the cost of your total hotel stay. In the city, parking rates can be outrageous.  If that is the case, consider staying further out of town.
  • Valet: Sometimes hotels only offer valet parking which is not only costly, but inconvenient during the morning rush when EVERYONE wants their car! It’s also inconvenient if you have to get your car at 5am (typical for me) and the valet guy hasn’t shown up for work yet or doesn’t start until later. Avoid this if you can, unless you’re not in a rush.

 3. Amenities

HotelGym

  • Free wi-fi: Believe it or not, some hotels still have the nerve to charge for wi-fi. If you will be staying at a hotel for several days, make sure this is included in the price.
  • Gym: It is extremely important to incorporate fitness into your schedule. It is so easy to fall off track and out of your regular workout routine when you travel, so do your best to find a hotel with a gym and make an honest effort to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your day.  For more detailed tips, read my previous article on How to Keep Fit While on the Road.
  • Kitchen: I prefer to stay at suite hotels with full kitchens because that way I can prepare all of my own meals, eat healthier and make myself feel more at home (which can be quite nice if you are travelling for extended periods of time). For tips on all the meals you can prepare in a hotel room, be sure to read my article How to Eat Healthy While on the Road.

4. Reviews

Reviews

It is possible to spend countless hours on the web reading an endless sea of reviews for any hotel! I have to admit that I secretly find this entertaining and will waste a lot of time doing this solely for my own amusement. I mean who doesn’t find it amusing to hear people bitch it out over the pettiest little things???   However if you need to get down to business and  find a highly reputable place to stay ASAP, there is a new business travel app available called CinchTravel which amalgamates hotel reviews from multiple websites and provides the best suggestion for the particular area you search.  This app also gives you the ability to store your preferences such that when you type in the next city in which you are searching for accommodations, the app will give you the best flights and hotels based on that location, history and preferences.  Unfortunately this only currently available for iPhone and I have a BlackBerry, so I will have to do my searches the old fashioned way for now.

5. Rewards/Membership Programs

Rewards

Most major hotel chains offer some sort of rewards or membership program.  These programs are free and can provide you with a variety of perks including free early/late check-in, free wi-fi, free upgrades and points which you can use as credit towards future hotel stays.  The more you stay at hotel chains associated with the same rewards program, the quicker you will be eligible for free hotel stays which you can use for your own personal vacation.

6. Cost

cost

This is quite obvious but worth a mention and hence why I have listed it last.  Often if you can stay a bit further from downtown, you can get a much better deal.  After all, if you have your own vehicle, it doesn’t really matter because you can drive wherever you want.

I realize this may seem like a lot of factors to consider when selecting accommodations but all I can say is, it pays off to do your homework.

 

Travel safe my friends.

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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