Category Archives: sales

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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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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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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Do Extroverts Make Better Sales Representatives?

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If you were to make a list of the best sales representatives you’ve ever met and on that list include some of their primary traits, what would those traits be?

Most certainly these top performers could be best described as highly outgoing, sociable, “people” people which are all traits of extroverts.

What we don’t see is that behind closed doors, the majority of top performing sales reps are in fact, not like this all of the time.

I recall when I started out in a new sales position and on my way home from my first business trip, my sales manager called me to follow-up and discuss how my calls went.  I filled him in and after I was done reporting, I told him “That’s all I got.”, which confused him, so I explained “I’ve been ‘on’ all day and have been talking all day and now I’m done. I have nothing further to report.  It’s time for ‘me time’ to decompress while I drive home and we can touch base next week.”.

There was a long period of silence and then he said to me, “You’re in sales, you’re supposed to like talking ALL the time!”

Not me.

Why?

Because I’m a 50/50 Introvert/Extrovert.

Sure my response may have sounded a bit cold to anyone who is a complete extrovert and couldn’t fully understand, but I can’t help it. It is what I am.

In my opinion, I firmly believe that in order to be successful in any job that requires you to spend a significant amount of time interacting with others that you need to decompress and take a rest in order to recharge your batteries.  If you are ‘on’ all the time, you’ll burn out or exhaust everyone around you.  Perhaps I am biased because I am a split introvert-extrovert but let me put it this way, for anything in life, moderation is key. Too much or too little of anything can be a bad thing.  There must be some sort of balance.  If you are too far on one side of the introversion-extroversion scale, sales likely isn’t going to be for you and here is why:

Highly Extroverted People

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1. Highly Communicative and Like to Talk. This is fine in sales as long as you know when to shut up and listen to your client. In sales it is so important to listen to your client and engage them in a conversation, not simply talk at them or talk for the sake of talking. If you do that you certainly won’t get the sale and won’t be welcome back either.

2. Enjoy Being the Center of Attention. Some of the most charming sales reps I have ever met share this quality. They love to hear their own voice and make everyone laugh but then they run into the problem of not listening or properly engaging with the client.  In sales, it’s one thing to put on a good song and dance but if you’re client just sees you as a form of entertainment, it may not translate into sales.

3. Tend to Act First Without Thinking. This is never a good thing. Highly extroverted sales reps may inadvertently say anything to get the sale simply because they acted without thinking.  If you lie or over promise and under-deliver, it will hurt you not only in your professional life but in your personal life as well.

4. Assertive and Gregarious. These traits are a must for any sales rep.  After all, if you can’t ask for that sale, you’ll never get that sale.

5. Feel Isolated by Too Much Time Spent Alone. This is probably the primary reason I see highly extroverted reps leave sales.  If you’re on the road full time, you spend a LOT of time alone in your car, at home, in hotels…much more so than face-to-face with clients.  If you’re the type of person who needs constant interaction with others, all of that alone time will take its toll on you.

Highly Introverted People

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1. Quiet and Reserved in Large Groups or Unfamiliar People. In sales you have to meet unfamiliar people all the time and often have to participate in trade shows or even speak at events. If you score too highly in this regard, you won’t last long in sales.

2. Good Listeners who Enjoy Understanding Details. These traits are integral to success in sales.  Even if you have all the best questions to ask your client, if you don’t listen to their answers  you will never qualify them properly and/or get the sale.  Understanding detail is immensely important when it comes to your grasp of not only your products and/or services but your industry as a whole and your clients’ needs.

3. Interested in Self-Knowledge and Understanding. Individuals with these traits not only understand themselves better but doing so allows them to be more thoughtful of others and more empathetic. The better you understand your client, the better relationship you will have with them and the more likely that you will be able to close deals time and time again.

4. Thoughtful. Whether you are mindful of your clients’ needs or sensitive to their situation (business or personal), this can only help you develop a long-term relationship with your client as a sales rep.

5. Need time Alone to Contemplate and “Recharge” After Social Situations. Introverts do their best thinking alone.  They will spend a significant amount of time analyzing the days goings on and in that time they may devise methods to better understand themselves and their clients and come up with ways to improve their lives and better service their clients.  With regards to recharging, as I mentioned previously, I firmly believe balance and moderation is the key to success in life. Just like our electronic devices that we use all day long, we need to recharge our batteries too.

So where do YOU stand on the introversion-extroversion scale?

Complete this Extroversion-Introversion Test to find out.

I scored 52/100. Well it’s not 50 exactly but it’s pretty darn close.

If you’re in sales or a similar position that requires a significant amount of face-time, I would love to hear your results and your thoughts.

Please share.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends!

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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