Author Archives: michael

Finding sales prospects: three basic rules for locating the decision maker who can in fact say yes to what you offer

Finding sales prospects, first basic rule: You can make a sale only if you deal with the person who can say Yes to what you offer.

That’s obvious enough, especially if you’re selling to individuals.

But it’s more difficult if you’re selling to organizations. The selling skills you use in finding prospects within organizations in both the public and private sectors is more complicated, as these organizations are filled with people who have only negative decision-making authority.

That is, they have the authority to say No to you, but, no matter what or how good a deal you offer, they’re just not able to say Yes. Saying yes is just not in their job-description. Continue reading Finding sales prospects: three basic rules for locating the decision maker who can in fact say yes to what you offer

Non-verbals in the sales call (or job interview)

Note: I’ve brought this post over from my older blog site,, as I am in the process of migrating the relevant posts from that old site to this.

An article in the archives of the website of Britain’s New Scientist magazine is  very relevant to our main topic here, which of course is Selling face to face.  The article:  “Come-to-work eyes: Secrets of interview success,” by Michael Bond.  After all, walking in to meet with a sales prospect isn’t so very different from walking in to a job interview.

The link is below so you can read the whole article, but here are a couple of things that particularly struck me.

  • First impressions count.  The article cites one study that “found that untrained observers who watched a video of the first 20 to 30 seconds of a job interview were astonishingly accurate at predicting whether the applicant would be offered the job. That doesn’t mean the observers were especially good at picking good candidates. It means the interviewers, despite being fully trained, still go with their initial gut instinct.”
  • Start with the handshake. But here I disagree, at least now, during flu season.  Be sensitive to signals.  (Of course, if you’re a member of a secret society— Freemasons, Yalie Skull-and-Bones— then play by those rules!
  • If you do shake hands, be sure your hands are warm.  Strange advice, but makes sense.  Read the article for why and how.

Read “Come-to-work eyes: Secrets of interview success” at New Scientist website

Buying signals in the face-to-face meeting

In a previous post, we addressed buying signals in general.  Now we look more specifically at the kind of buying signals you might encounter once you’re actually face-to-face with the Prospect.

There will be times when the Prospect’s cues are so strong and positive that there is no break between your presentation and the Prospect’s agreement: it’s as if there is one continuous flow to the communication. In those happy cases, you don’t really need to ask for the order, as the Prospect’s words or actions make it clear that all that remains is to work out the details.

The actual cues that signal interest will depend to a large extent on the individual’s unique mannerisms, so you’ll need to be alert and flexible. To get started, attune to basic areas such as those following.

Non-Verbal Signals. If the Prospect is sitting forward on his chair, nodding his head, muttering words like, “Great! Exactly what we need! Yes, I see how it fits in,” then you have strongly positive buying signals. That is probably the point at which you should stop trying to persuade the Prospect, and instead move on to wrap it up by closing for some kind of buying action.

Questions and comments. It’s usually a positive signal when the Prospect begins asking about practical matters, such as, “How soon can you deliver? or “Is it available in (a certain color or size or other similar detail)?” Questions of this sort imply that the Prospect has basically made the decision to buy, and now has moved on to settle the details.

Certain kinds of objections can be buying signals. If a Prospect asks detailed questions about your product, or about how it differs from your competition, you probably have a signal of interest. After all, busy people don’t get into the details unless they see a good reason for them to do so. The fact that the Prospect is interested enough to explore this kind of practical issue signals that the Prospect is at least testing the What-if of buying. The trend is positive, so be ready to move with that trend.

Interest in haggling over details. The sale is probably yours if the Prospect initiates tentative negotiating probes over matters that would be relevant only if the sale is going through. (The sale is yours, that is, provided you can negotiate mutually-agreeable terms.)

For instance, a Prospect might say, “You’re talking about too long a lead time before you can install. The delay is costing me money.” But analyze what she is saying beneath the words, which probably is, “I’m ready to buy, provided you can speed up delivery.”

Incidentally, these buying signals by the Prospect may not be consciously sent, so it’s important to look through the actual words and gestures to find what is really meant or implied.

The Prospect may not have actually decided to buy — at least not on a conscious level — but the interest in delivery times betrays what’s really going on in his mind. If you’re attuned to that, you can adapt appropriately.

Continue reading Buying signals in the face-to-face meeting

Demonstrations skills training (Part 2)

Demonstrations skills training: this is Part 2 of a two-part segment on demonstration skills training.

Demonstration skills training: why, when, how

To read Part 1 of this Demonstration skills training module, see above on this blog.

4: Conduct the body of the demonstration.

The objectives you negotiated earlier with the prospect (as part of the “Gentleperson’s Agreement”) will normally serve as topic headings in structuring your coverage. Resist the temptation to take the prospect on a guided tour of every aspect and capability of your product.

Instead, organize your coverage so that you show how each of the agreed-upon objectives can be accomplished.

As you finish your coverage of each objective, pause and ask the Decision Maker and others on the team to confirm that they understand the points you have made. Make sure they understand how this aspect of your product fills the specified need.

If their understanding does not seem to be clear, or if they hesitate or disagree, pause to find their root concerns and deal with them before moving on to the next objective.

Be direct in comparing your proposed method and their present system (if one is in place): Continue reading Demonstrations skills training (Part 2)

Demonstration skills training (Part 1)

Demonstration skills training: why, when, how

Demonstration skills are one of several “proof sources” to call upon as needed. What IS a proof source? It’s whatever will “prove” that your product or service not only does what you claim it does, but—no less important—that it fills the needs that you and the prospect have agreed upon are significant.

That may seem to be restating the obvious: that we use proof sources (like demonstration skills) to prove points to the prospect.

Obvious, perhaps, but sometimes forgotten. A lot of (usually ineffective) sales people use their demonstration skills early-on, as a sort of general sales “thingee.” If you’re demonstrating a magic trick it maybe does make sense to demo it before you talk about it. Continue reading Demonstration skills training (Part 1)

Active Listening as a tool for finding the Prospect’s real objections

Active listening is a way to find what is really behind the objections you hear.

I was talking to my friend Henry the other day. Henry has a product that allows engine oil and hydraulic fluid to last 4-10 times longer than usual.

No, no. This is not one of those wacko devices you see on late-night TV infomercials, this is the real thing. It’s actually for big machines, like 18 wheelers, bulldozers and the like, and it’s endorsed by Caterpillar and other manufacturers.

Anyway, Henry was telling me about the resistance he gets from the potential buyers at the quarries and trucking firms and government agencies he sells to. Objections like, ‟We’ve always done it the old way,” ‟I don’t care if Caterpillar says it’s okay, I’m not going to take a chance.”

He was getting this from the maintenance chief at a government agency. Continue reading Active Listening as a tool for finding the Prospect’s real objections

Cold calling: when you CAN use it as a way to make the sale (and HOW to do it)

Good sales can flow from cold calls. While cold-calling should NOT be your primary way of approaching new prospects, there will be times when it is appropriate as a selling tool.

For example, if you have open time between scheduled calls, consider using it to “smoke-stack” for other leads. (The term arose when sales people would drive around looking for factory smoke-stacks to guide them to industrial prospects. Now most smoke-stacking is done by scanning the list of tenants at the elevators of office towers and entrances to commercial parks.) Continue reading Cold calling: when you CAN use it as a way to make the sale (and HOW to do it)

Sales tips: Summary checklist on how to move the discussion from price to value

Sales tips. Checklist on how to keep the focus on “value” rather than just price

Price is important, but rarely is as decisive as you might expect.

More important than price is Value. While Price focuses on dollars spent, Value puts cost in the context of what is gained.

To make sales, show your prospects how they can get back $1.01 or more for each $1.00 spent.

To build the prospect’s awareness of Value, speak of price only in context, never by itself. Generally, that means working through a four-step process:

1. Review the specific needs you uncovered.

2. Review the specific ways in which your product will fill each of those needs.

3. Present price.

4. Immediately transition from price to the value of the solution you offer.

Additional methods of highlighting value over cost:

1. Restate costs in more meaningful units.

2. Restate cost in an alternative way that is more meaningful to this customer.

3. Refer to any “incidental payoffs” that add value.

4. Use the analogy of the telephone.

Still other sales tips for moving the discussion from cost or price to the broader issue of value

However, there will be times when the customer is determined to look not at overall value but rather at short-term cost. Even then, treat price in a positive rather than defensive way, such as,

1. Show how your product offers more value (that is, more cost-effectiveness) than does any competing product or approach.

2. Speak of price, but then transition to a comparison of price versus the cost of not having what you propose.

Non-verbal selling skills: “screen test” checklist