Friday, 27 May 2011

"Made in Britain- Sold BY Britain- BESMA 2011 ISMM Excellence in Selling

In Episode 4 in the current series of the Apprentice we witnessed the business- suited wannabes dispatched by Lord Sugar to sell fake tan in Birmingham.

Team Logic made the tactical error of focusing on selling products, which have small margins, instead of services such as “treatments”, which have vast ones. The result was a “pig ugly” loss and Lord Sugar pointed his TV trade mark finger of fate at the team leader, Felicity.

This fourth episode was the current season’s contribution to “selling” following the previous week's on sourcing and purchasing products for the Savoy Hotel.

It made for good telly but I am not sure it tells us much about the state of 'real world 'professional selling in modern Britain.

The stories of the finalists and winners of this year’s Institute of sales and marketing management BESMA awards on the other hand, are the real stories of heroes of the Selling profession.

This year's glittering event was held at the Lancaster Hotel which overlooks the Italian Gardens of London's Royal Park, Kensington Gardens.
The BESMA evening was sponsored by amongst others The Daily Telegraph De Vere,Principal Hayley,Royal Mail Lancaster London,Maddison Media and Campaign master.

Speaking of the awards Stephen Wright, ISMM Commercial Director said “The BESMA awards are a celebration of the sales profession, the finalists knowledgeable, ethical and professional in their approach. As well as recognising individual and team achievements, the BESMA awards help to raise the profile and reputation of the whole profession.”

The objective of the BESMAs is both to raise the status of selling by recognising the vital role of salespeople, and also celebrate the value sales brings to business.

In opening the awards ceremony ISMM president,Eric Peacock read an address from no less than the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
I reproduce it in full
Headed from "No 10 Downing Street, London SW1 A 2AA"
" The success of Britain's businesses is going to be absolutely vital to our economic recovery, and it is the innovation, enterprise and dynamism of our incredible sales and marketing industry that is going to help make this happen.

Selling curries to India, car parts to Germany and fashion to France, it is clear that this private sector led-recovery not only has
'Made in Britain' stamped all over it, but 'Sold by Britain' too
You are the front line of our economic recovery, demonstrating that Britain is very much open for business.
I congratulate all the winners and participants of the British Excellence in Sales & Marketing awards. The professionalism , creativity and flair that you have all shown is to be commended.
(Table of Finalists Vanessa Freeman - Steljes Limited and Steve Ramussen Siptel.)

(Prime Minister Cameron concluded)
I truly believe that your achievements will help ensure that the next decade can be one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial decades of our history"

One wonders whether the 12 sales managers who formed the first incarnation of what is now the ISMM some 100 years ago in London had any idea what the fledgling Sales managers' association was to become.
The first BESMA was awarded in 1985 and was sponsored by British Airways to acknowledge and encourage the work of their sales people.
This years winners were:-

Sales Director of the Year: Tony McHardy - Business Stream
Sales Manager of the Year: John Maund - Virgin Media Business
(Iqbal and Melina from TACK International )

Account Manager of the Year: Catriona Shearer -Lyreco
Sales Trainer of the year: James Osborne - Innergy Ltd
Sales Professional of the year : John Schofield - Merial Animal Health Ltd

Sales Professional of the year B: Steve Ramussen - Siptel Steve with his winner's trophy.

Sales Team of the Year A: Vodafone - Enterprise Small Sales team
Sales Team of the Year B: David Lloyd Leisure - Swindon Sales team

ISMM student of the year: Ayyaz Iftikhar - Handepay Merchant Services
New Sales Professional of the Year:Jonathan Beagles - Virgin Media Business

Customer Service Team of the year: Wesleyan Assurance Society Two members of the team from Birmingham with their winner's trophy

Telesales Professional of the Year: Scott Golland - Virgin Media Business
Sales Support Team of the Year: DHL International (UK) ltd

Many congratulations to all the finalists and of course the winners and runners up.

Thank you for all you do for United kingdom plc and to inspire the selling profession in the country.
As President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron might describe you in the days of the Prseident of the USA visiting the UK before going on to the G8 conference; you are the key partners for the

"Essential Relationships" you foster with customers . Those are very "Special relationships" as well! - Very Good Selling.


Whether you are a "real world" apprentice in selling or an experienced sales professional consider joining your professional body The Institute of Sales and marketing management ISMM.

(Scroll down for link to the membership page for ISMM)

Here are some of the benefits you will gain from membership:-

Training, networking and development opportunities - enhance your sales skills at our events, learning from world class speakers and networking with other professionals.
Professional qualifications - enhance your CV and sales credentials. The ISMM is a government-approved awarding body for sales qualifications.
Continuing Professional Development - you can further enhance your training and career development with our optional CPD programme.
Successful Selling Convention - you will get membership discount on Successful Selling, the largest sales convention in the UK.
• Win national recognition - the British Excellence in Sales & Marketing Awards. (BESMA) is the 'Oscars'of the sales and marketing sector.
• Network with fellow sales professionals - your Regional Groups give an excellent social and professional environment.
LinkedIn - join the ISMM LinkedIn group to exchange ideas, best practice and even leads with fellow members.
Professional advice - you will have access to a network of sales experts to help you with day to day selling queries.
Legal advice 'on demand' - whether of a business or personal nature, the service is available 24 hours per day, 365 days a year to give support to you when you need it the most.
Winning Edge magazine - keep yourself up to date with industry news, commentary and advice to aid commercial performance.
Research and reports - gain a deeper understanding of your professional environment with access to sales reports and research. - you can enjoy free online videos, as well as ISMM news to keep you up to date with industry news and events.
Social media - follow the ISMM and exchange ideas and views on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

I hope to see you at the next ISMM show- October 20th Ricoh Centre, Coventry for Selling Expo
Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

Taking our places for the three course dinner - plenty of razzle dazzle!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Sales Presentation on the web using PRO-WEBPITCH

The advent of 'real-time conferencing' systems such as GoTo meeting are making salespeople more productive, empowering them to accelerate sales, reduce selling cycles, improve customer service, streamline communications, and control costs.

GoTo Meeting is easy to use . I have adapted some of their guidelines for salespeople ( scroll down for Goto meeting link at bottom of this post) .

It enables even the non geeky sales professional to set up online meetings and events in just a few minutes and allows client attendees to join in just one click.

Its free voice-conferencing service makes it simple to set up audio conference calls, and attendees ( both supplier and client) can get a single meeting ID number for both the online meeting and the audio conference.

• Performance - The Web conferencing technology that a supplier organisation uses to present and share its offering to customers and prospects is often perceived as an extension of the organization itself.

If customers or prospects have a poor experience with the online meeting , they
will most likely have a negative perception of the product that the organization is

(Scroll down for free Summary Buyers’ Survey of Salespeople Research Study)
For this reason, online meeting and Webinar performance is crucial in a Buyer / Seller interaction.

GoToMeeting offers an excellent collaborative experience that keeps customers focused on the sales messages.

Selling and Buying 2.0 requires systems that are simple to use, cost effective and perform well.

Here is a model that could prove useful to salespeople embarking on a virtual sales presentation on the web.

P lan Time of meeting
R egister ID details
O bjectives of meeting entered

W elcome client attendees
E licit feedback from attendees
B ig Picture Overview
P resent and Share
I nvite questions
T reat any client problems
H old de brief meeting offline

Here is a more detailed checklist adapted from the GoTo guidelines
Before the virtual sales meeting

If you intend to share your entire PC desktop to your client audience, turn off any instant-messaging applications, notification software or other programs that may interrupt or distract your audience for your presentation.

• Switch off any streaming media applications that may take up bandwidth and resource-intensive applications that may be exhausting your PC’s processor ability.
• Pre-Set your desktop display to a neutral background and adjust display settings to a mid-range resolution (e.g., 1024 x 768) to improve the display for attendees with lesser settings. This will also be the optimal setting should you wish to record the presentation.
• Tidy up your pc’s desktop before a meeting. Remove wallpaper and icons that may distract your client audience.
• Pre-load the documents you wish to share ready to be accessed in one or two clicks. Clients dislike being held in limbo while additional documents are being uploaded.
• Hold a dry run rehearsal with a team colleague to anticipate any questions and to acquaint yourself with the set up of your online sales presentation.

Running the Meeting

• Log on a few minutes early to greet your client attendees as they arrive and start your meeting on time. It also helps to have a welcome presentation running during this time. Your presence in these opening minutes can help establish the tone and direction of the meeting.
• Create a welcome message under the Meetings category of Preferences to greet your client attendees as they click onto the meeting.
• Provide a 'Big Picture' agenda at the start of the meeting, including estimated times, and keep to it.
• Explain to your client attendees what the purpose/goal of the meeting is, what to expect and when and how to ask questions and participate in the meeting.
• Issue information on how to use equipment or services and how to get assistance if needed
• Nominate a colleague or co-worker to monitor and respond to the chat log when someone is presenting.
• Encourage participation by using open questions such as “Who What When Where How...?"
• End the meeting clearly with a call for action if suitable. Ensure all your attendees know that the meeting is formally over and stay on the line to address any last questions.
Hold a de-brief meeting with your colleague off-line to ensure

Best practice in Conference Call management

• Phone in to the meeting from a location where there is little background noise.
• Switch off system prompts and sounds for when attendees join or leave a meeting. It is worth reading the Voice Conferencing section of the help files to familiarize yourself with the conference call features.
• Avoid using mobiles and cordless phones because of static and use the phone handset or a headset instead of speakerphones because of background noise, tunnel effect and sentence clipping.
• Switch off your call waiting. The beep of a new call on another line is heard by everyone in an audio conference.
• Don't put your phone on hold during an audio conference. The hold music will play into the conference call, and make it impossible for the other client attendees to continue the meeting.
• Introduce yourself when you begin speaking and ask other attendees to also identify themselves before speaking. Not everyone in the meeting may know everyone else’s voice

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

Friday, 20 May 2011

“Fast talkers, “Smooth talking” or “Disfluent speaking?” Which should salespeople be on the phone? - Latest findings from the University Of Michigan

The Council of the London Borough of Westminster has recently unveiled a green plaque commemorating the Harley Street consulting room where Lionel Logue practiced his vocal coaching. No 146 Harley Street

The movie of the King’s Speech which won four academy awards starring Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush playing Logue has now been released on video in the UK.

The longer title of the film is revealing –
“How one man saved the British Monarchy “which if a little overblown does put across the point of the importance and power that a voice can convey.

(scroll down for free survey summary.)

Logue not only coached the King who suffered from severe stammering when speaking in public to large crowds but also in the monarch’s radio broadcasts.

Radio broadcasting is more akin to speaking to customers on the phone or speaking to clients via audio conferencing which sales people are increasingly having to do.

The power and importance of the voice is ever important to salespeople.

Recent research undertaken by José Benki at the University of Michigan has produced some very interesting findings which has implications for all in sales who use the phone in their work to gain interviews and appointments where they have to persuade the respondent to accept an interview.
José has kindly given me permission to cite his findings in this blog.

The research at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (U-M ISR). examines how various speech characteristics influence people's decisions to participate in telephone surveys.

But its findings have implications perhaps for many other situations, from sales research, appointment gaining through to closing the sales and on-going account development.

SPEECH RATE on the phone

"Interviewers who spoke moderately fast, at a rate of about 3.5 words per second, were much more successful at getting people to agree than either interviewers who talked very fast or very slowly,"

José Benki and his team used recordings of 1,380 introductory calls made by 100 male and female telephone interviewers at the U-M ISR.

They analysed the interviewers' speech rates, fluency, and pitch, and correlated those variables with their success in convincing people to participate in the survey.
Often people who talk really fast are seen as “fast talker”, and people who talk really slowly are seen as not too overly pedantic or possibly rather dim, the finding about speech rates rings true.

But another finding from the study was somewhat counter intuitive and surprising.
The research group assumed that interviewers who sounded animated and lively, with a lot of variation in the pitch of their voices, would be more successful
But they found only a marginal effect of variation in pitch by interviewers on success rates.

It could be that variation in pitch could be helpful for some interviewers but for others, too much pitch variation sounds artificial, like salespeople who are trying too hard. So such backfires and puts people off."

The Importance of VOICE PITCH

Pitch, the highness or lowness of a voice, is a highly gendered quality of speech, influenced largely by body size and the corresponding size of the larynx, or voice box.

Typically, men have low-pitched voices and women high-pitched voices. Think of the voiced characters of Orson Wells and Rory O’Shea the voices of the Carlsberg lager Advertisements versus Lucille Smith, the voice of Smurfette from the Smurfs or Mae Questel of cartoon character -Betty Boop ( "Boop-boop-a-doop".)

The MU research group also examined whether pitch influenced survey participation decisions differently for male compared to female interviewers.

They found that men interviewers in the study with higher-pitched voices had worse success than their deep-voiced colleagues.

But they did not find any clear-cut evidence that pitch mattered for the female interviewers.

PAUSING on the phone

The researchers examined the use of pauses. Here they found that interviewers who engaged in frequent short pauses were more successful than those who were perfectly fluent.

When people are speaking, they naturally pause about 4 or 5 times a minute.
José Benki points out "These pauses might be silent, or filled, but that rate seems to sound the most natural in this context. If interviewers made no pauses at all, they had the lowest success rates getting people to agree to do the survey.
We think that's because they sound too scripted.

People who pause too much are seen as disfluent. But it was interesting that even the most disfluent interviewers had higher success rates than those who were perfectly fluent."

José Benki and the team at MU plan to continue their analyses, comparing the speech of the most and least successful interviewers to see how the content of conversations, as well as measures of speech quality, is related to their success rates.

In correspondence that I have had with Jose Benki this week I asked him some questions on his study

José Benki ( JB) explained that the Michigan University group pretty much focused on the “survey recruitment” context, although they are obviously informed by other disciplines that study speech and persuasion.


What part do 'first impressions' have on persuasiveness on a call ? Are pitch, speech rate, fluency( or disfluency) more critical at different stages of the phone call to the recipient or are these consistently important throughout the call ?

JB: The findings we report are based on the first 13 conversational turns of agrees and refusals, precisely because refusals are shorter, lasting about 13 turns, and the agrees change in nature pretty quickly to procedural type interactions.

The trends are actually similar when averaging over the entire contact than early turns but some are stronger, such as pause frequency (more pausing at the ends of agree contacts). You raise an important point that we are aware of and are planning on pursuing in more detail in our corpus.

HA: What bearing does the length ( duration) of the call have on persuasiveness?

JB: Since the potential respondents are in control of the duration of the call for the most part, we have a confound in our data in that agrees last longer than refusals (agrees go on to a formal interview).

HA: Does the quality of the sound reproduction of the telephone microphone and/or receivers telephone speaker have any bearing on persuasiveness ?

JB: We were not able to look at quality of sound as an experimental or observational variable. What we did find was that the agree contacts with male interviewers had a mean interviewer pitch 14 Hz lower than the corresponding mean in refusals. For contacts with female interviewers, the effect was about half as large in Hz, which is about 1/4 as large when converting to a perceptual scale, perhaps negligible.

The paper on this research from the University of Michigan is to be written up shortly. There is a fun podcast link for the study.

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Solution Based Selling - Selling by whose objectives ? 6 stage model

The writings American management guru Peter Drucker (1909 -2005) are back in vogue despite some detractors of his core concept of management by objectives MBO who suggest that companies adopting MBO tend to overemphasise control rather than foster creativity.

But in these tough times of recession - control and in particular cost control has been the mission focus of many corporations. This has led to the increase of ever more professional procurement. Procurement has been under the spotlight in both private and public sectors.

One of Drucker's quotes was "If you are not part of the solution you've gotta be part of the problem". Although Drucker was primarily referring to management his slogan applies equally to professional selling and professional purchasing.

Many experienced professional salespeople in sales today find their role being one of contributing to a mutually shared answer to a recognised problem of which the answer provides a measurable improvement to satisfy procurement.

I met up this week with a good friend and colleague of mine, Simon Cooper who was running a new course " Solution Based Selling" in central London for Tack International.

Simon was discussing the sea-change in selling today due to the changes in procurement.

Simon ( see left) distinguishes between conventional selling and solution based selling.

"the key differentiation between the two"Simon believes is " that in solution selling it is the seller- who has the responsibility for understanding of the situation and then to build a value solution alongside and with the Buyer."

Simon quoted the late editor of Harvard Business Review Theodore Levitt (1925 2006)

"It is not so much about what you are selling it is much more about how what you are selling helps the customer."

In 1983 Levitt proposed corporate purpose was rather than merely making money , it is to create and keep a customer. ( sounds like another definition of Selling)

Essentially the selling message must be BE VALUABLE.

The TACK Solution Based Selling model focuses on six key areas.

The TACK International site is

1.The creation of rapport and the building of trust.

2.The identification of customer needs and their priorities.

3.The creation and design of solution

4.The presentation of the differentiated value proposition.

5.The negotiation of of terms and conditions

6.Implementation of a solution which is subsequently evaluated and developed

One of the key sessions of the programme is a detailed review of the Procurement process.

From the Buying cycle delegates focus on nine key stages - a. Need Identification b. Information Gathering c. Supplier contact d. Background review e. Negotiation. f. Purchase g. Fulfilment h. Consumptive maintenance and disposal i. Renewal.

Today's solution seller has to have an appreciation of the demands and stresses of today's professional procurement specialists.

The programme investigates how procurement dpeatrments are measured and what from a corporate standpoint is Purchasing excellence- what are their KPPI Key Performance Purchasing Indicators.

As well reviewing traditional six step sourcing models the course considers purchasing strategy and and total cost of ownership, risk assessment, sourcing techniques, the prevalence of e sourcing tools, inter site synergy and compliance and ethics and corporate social responsibility.

The course examines how procurement is measured and evaluated in order that delegates get a deeper understanding of what professional procurement is about and how to work in partnership with procurement.

This is a great programme for sales professionals who know how to sell but need to step into the premier league of elite solution sellers.

This Solution Based Selling course culminates in a comprehensive checklist of 63 issues that if actioned will take you and you keep you in the sales elite.

Useful Links

Solution Based Selling and  Differentiated Value Proposition

Negotiation Skills

Simon can be contacted at

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Macmillan Gulls' Eggs City Luncheon – Fundraising and Networking City style

The merchant and yachtsman Sir Thomas Lipton (1848-1941) whose iced tea drinks and tea brands are still world brands (currently owned by Unilever) observed that

“ When a hen lays her eggs she clucks her knew all round the farmyard, a duck on the other hand lays her egg in complete silence and who the hell “ Sir Thomas asked “ buys ducks eggs?!!!”

His point was the importance of marketing communication.

For many businesses however the costs of PR and media advertising may not be the best of return on their communication investment but networking on the other hand is a way to cluck the news about one’s business.

The Gulls’ Eggs City luncheon brings together businesspeople from the financial community to raise funds for Macmillan cancer charity ( scroll down for donation site link) and to provide an environment of gastronomic conviviality in the beautiful and historic hall of the Merchant Taylors in London’s financial district “The City”.

The Merchant Taylors' Company, or to give them their full name by which they are described in the Royal Charter of 1503, the Gild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John Baptist is a most suitable place for a networking event of the fraternity and sisterhood of the Gulls eggs city luncheon guests to meet.

The Company has occupied its present site between Threadneedle Street and Cornhill since 1347. The first Hall was built at some date between the years 1347 and 1392 ( known as the “Taillourshalle”)

The Merchant Taylors and the Skinners have always disputed their precedence, so once a year they exchange sixth and seventh place. This rotation of precedence is one of the theories for the origin of the phrase "at sixes and sevens” meaning to be in a confused state of mind.

The success of the Gulls event means it was very crowded but despite the congestion all were fed with delectable smoked salmon, hard boiled gulls' egg which one dips in celery salt, washed down with red or white wine or water with plum cake for afters.
Guests were not at sixes and sevens.

The Gulls’ egg season is strictly controlled by the British Government through DEFRA. Only around 40,000 eggs are gathered through licensed specialists.
Gulls eggs are a delicacy because DEFRA (department for environment, food and rural affairs) tightly controls their collection: only around 40,000 are gathered by 25 licensed specialists every year. They are a translucent grey when boiled and richer than hens' eggs.

(Gulls eggs will set you back £6.50 each this year at Harrods.)

The Gulls Eggs City luncheon has been running for 23 years. Chairman of the event Zoe Couper of strategic advisory and communications firm Couper and partners describes the event as
“ ...eccentrically English. It brings people together: they can drop by for five minutes or stay for two hours.

There is no agenda, no seating plan, no speeches, no auction”

The luncheon has acquired a standing and it was full this year as ever, the true start of the City's summer.

“Business networking “according Wikipedia” is a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities.

A business network is a type of social network whose reason for existing is business activity.”
The City does this all with a certain style and super food.

The gulls eggs were delicious like very rich hens eggs. They were beautifully displayed on a bed of cress, half peeled showing the translucent egg white and reamining half its pretty spotted shell which acted as a handle to lift and dip the egg in celery salt. ( Like a very upmarket ice cream cornet but savoury)

The Merchant Taylors’ motto is Concordia Parvae Res Crescunt, meaning
"In Harmony Small Things Grow."
Well Macmillan cancer support has grown from that small thing of a £10 birthday gift of Douglas Macmillan in 1911. Congratulations to them.

From that initial £10 birthday gift Douglas Macmillan founded the Society for the Prevention and Relief from cancer.
Macmillan fund today 5,300 health and social care professionals, form nurses to occupational therapists. There are more than 3,450 Macmillan Nurses in the UK.

Macmillan rely on voluntary donations for nearly all its income.
It all costs money of course:-

£ 191 could pay for a Macmillan nurse for a day, giving someone with cancer essential information, advice and support.
£50,000 would pay for a Macmillan nurse for a year, including their training and recruitment. This is special training to give people living with cancer and their families’ essential medical, practical and emotional support.

So I hope the event raised loads of money.

So far as the networking going on - Sir Thomas Lipton might have a thing or two to say about the deafening but harmonic conversations of bankers , lawyers and various professions of the City's equivalent to seagulls calling over the ocean!!!

Congratulations to Chairman Zoe Couper, her Gull team committee members and the event organiser Miranda Brown at Macmillan a great success!

Related Links

Speed Networking at CIPD Olympia London April 2014

  The rewards of ennobled networking 

Thursday, 12 May 2011

38 GREAT Sales Questions - the craft of structured conversational questioning

Communication, the act of exchanging information, is a fundamental aspect of professional selling. Not only is it unprofessional to ‘tell sell’, it is often ineffective.

If we are doing the lion’s share of the talking, then we are not in control of the interview - so don’t sell benefits at every opportunity: Ration them and make them more powerful by asking structured questions. This will enable you to identify the buyer’s real needs and concerns, build rapport and maintain control of the meeting.

The main purpose of the sales meeting is to:

• Get information
• Give information
• Close with commitment.

The purpose of questioning is to uncover potential problems and precipitate buying signals upon which to draw the interview to a proposition and close: We need to exercise control and patience by careful listening or we will miss the signals by being too anxious to put across our points.

Different types of questions elicit different types of response, and are therefore used for different purposes. The basic categories are Open and Closed, the former being used to get information - or open the customer up - and the latter to confirm or clarify the information as you go along.

Often, particularly in the early stages of a client relationship, simply using open questions will not get sufficient response. In order to gain further information we need to use probing techniques. These build the picture by extending the questioning process, and using pauses and unfinished sentences to get the other person talking. Remember, silence is one of the best tools we have as sales people, particularly because it is so rarely used!

Open.................... Closed

Who........................... Can
Why........................... Will
What ..........................Are
Where .........................Is
How ...........................Have

Limited Choice
Open Leading

To help to control the meeting, it is often useful to direct the other person’s attention to a small range of options, thus leaving them with a limited choice in their answer. The use of the word ‘prefer’ to indicate that you are looking for their preference makes this type of question more friendly.

In many meetings more than one topic is being discussed. Link questions are useful for steering the discussion whilst allowing the other person to do the majority of the talking; this type of question is also useful for bringing the other person back to the point of the meeting if they have moved away from it.

One type of question that is extensively used by inexperienced sales people and politicians is the Leading question - “would you agree that...?” - which is invariably closed. Whilst leading questions have their use in guiding people to give positive answers, they can be seen as being manipulative, and are therefore irritating. Using Open Leading questions, on the other hand, is much more beneficial, though these are harder to frame. In effect, you are guiding the other person to tell you that they want what you have to offer, and this is the basis of all good questioning in sales.

Controlling the meeting

• However good you are at asking questions, people will not want to answer them unless they know why you are asking. Signposting the reasons for your questions, and finding the ‘YOU’ Appeal for them to give good quality answers, will help with this process, and will reduce the misunderstandings which form one of the main barriers to communication.

• To ensure that you understand clearly what you have been told, you should confirm the other person’s statement by restating or repeating what has been said, and clarify any points of confusion. Making the assumption that you understand their meaning will lead to misunderstandings.

• Often a meeting will cover a lot of ground, many points being discussed. In order to consolidate this discussion, it is valuable to summarise the proceedings to that point, checking for agreement and understanding. This can only be achieved effectively if you have been note taking during the meeting, showing both consideration and respect for your customer, and enabling you to keep an accurate account.

• None of this will be of any use unless you listen to what is being said. It is not, however, sufficient just to listen: You need to show that you are listening actively by demonstrating through you body positioning, eye contact and tone of voice that he or she is the most important person to you during your conversation. Show understanding and confirm that under-standing by paraphrasing what has been said to you - always ensure that you have made a thorough diagnosis before you attempt to prescribe.
This will help you to build rapport with them, and thus aid your communication further.

Example questions:

Background information
1. Tell me briefly about the scope of your company’s products and services.
2. How does the running of this type of business affect your department?
3. How many people report to you?
4. What are the key issues regarding…?
5. What are the present concerns regarding the purchase of equipment/service/ products?
6. What emphasis do you place on…?
7. What priority do you give to…?
8. How important is…?

Company supplier benefits
1. How important is it to purchase from a large and well-established company?
2. How do you define what is good service for your company?
3. What level of service do you offer your customers?
4. What degree of service would you expect to see after the purchase was made?
5. How important is it to have a local supplier/distributor nearby?
6. What service would you expect from the local supplier/distributor?
7. Apart from price, what other criteria have you got for the decision?

Establishing the decision making unit
1. How are decisions to purchase this type of product made?
2. Who is involved in approving the expenditure for this product?
3. What are the criteria upon which decisions to purchase are made?
4. What would happen if you needed an extra £10k to spend on equipment but did not have budget approval?
5. When purchasing this type of equipment what do you look for most in the package?
6. When do you have to make a decision by?

Finding out about the finances
1. When is your budget year?
2. Who holds the budget?
3. Up to what limit can money be spent from the budget before Board approval is required?
4. How important are cash flow/discounting/settlement terms of payment? Why?
5. Who allocates budgets and who spends them?

Establishing the past
1. How long have you been with the company?
2. What criteria did you/your predecessor establish when purchasing equipment?
3. If you went to purchase today, how would the criteria be changed?
4. What time scales for tender/purchase/instruction and commissioning do you envisage?
5. If there was one thing you could change about your current supplier, what would that be?

Establishing the future
1. To what extent is your company expanding?
2. What changes do you foresee in the next 6-12 months?
3. How will methods of purchase change?
4. Who else will we need to speak to?
5. Where else do you see the company locating/expanding its production base?
6. Who else within your industry do you think would benefit from talking to us?
7. If you had a magic wand what would you change in the (packaging) industry?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Selling by Objectives - Sales Planning and preparation

Selling by Objectives

Planning and preparation are the keys to success in selling. In order to plan effectively, you need to establish the result that you are aiming for - your objectives - which must fit the ‘SMART’ parameters.

Selling by Objectives is a simple planning discipline which operates at two levels:

• Overall performance objectives
• Individual call objectives.

The principle behind them both is the same - if you have a clear objective in mind you will work more efficiently than if you have no objective in mind.

Result oriented
Time related

Overall performance objectives
You should have clear annual objectives (preferably agreed with your manager, but if not, set them for yourself) which are expressed in terms such as:

• Total sales
• Sales within product groups
• Sales in certain areas of territory
• Sales to certain categories of client
• Total profit from your territory
• New accounts opened
• Average order value

or any other combination of them.

Break these down into quarterly and/or monthly targets allowing for seasonal fluctuations in your business, your own holiday periods, the number of selling days available allowing for bank holidays etc.

Individual call objectives
It is rare in today’s business environment for every call to result in an order; indeed, in many areas of commerce it is common to have to make a number of visits without making a sale. This factor, coupled with the increasing workload that most buyers suffer, makes it essential for the Sales Professional to be clear about the reason for each meeting, and what they are wanting to achieve from it, and to ensure that all attending are equally aware.

Recently there has been a major rationalisation of management roles within industry and commerce, resulting in individuals having little or no time to waste.

The progression from the beginning of the sales process to its ultimate objective can be likened to a staircase, with each upward step requiring information from, and the agreement of, the customer. Missing steps out can be dangerous!

There are, therefore, two types of objective that need setting - and both must be clearly defined before making the call. These are:

• Information seeking objectives (What do you need to find out?)
• Decision based objectives (What do you want to obtain agreement to?)

Your decision based objectives will ensure that your customer will know that they’re not having their time wasted, and that you won’t be wasting your time. To allow the best possible chance of reaching your objectives, your presentation should always follow a clear structure.

Examples of objectives

Information seeking

"To obtain information about.....":

• Needs/potential needs
• How need is currently being satisfied
• Which competitors are being used or considered
• Perceived advantages and disadvantages of competitors
• Budget levels or constraints
• Budget timings and financial years
• Creditworthiness and ability to pay
• Results of tests (on sample)
• Individual reactions to test results
• Why business has been lost
• Who has been given business and why
• Prices quoted by competitors
• What other opportunities in same company/group
• Other people who could be contacted
• Why orders are at current levels
• Why quotation has been rejected
• Future volume requirements
• Who is involved in decision making or influencing
• What staff changes have taken place
• What staff changes are likely to take place and when
• Terms and conditions on which orders are placed
• Order placing procedures
• Account settlement procedures
• What organisation’s present overall priority is
• What growth plans there are
• Performance of past products/services supplied
• Satisfaction levels in different parts of the organisation.

"To gain agreement to....":

• Appointment
• Further appointment
• Appointment with another decision-maker or influencer
• Specify product/service in future
• Place initial order or trial order
• Place repeat order
• Try new line
• Evaluate product/service by test or trial
• Recommended purchase to someone else
• Demonstration
• Factory visit by customer
• Another customer visiting his factory
• Persuade decision-maker to attend demonstration
• Move/improve display
• Conduct survey or audit
• Present survey report or audit recommendation
• Open an account
• Install new accounts procedures
• Agree delivery schedules
• Regular order
• Forward/bulk order
• Quotation being submitted
• Amend and resubmit quotation
• Place on tender list
• Visit exhibition/promotion
• Continue ordering following problem
• Continue ordering at different prices
• Give a reference
• Change specification or switch to new product/service
• Training of users or operators
• Supply samples.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Research - 3 key levels for Salespeople to consider

When researching for a meeting many salespeople focus purely on the company itself.
Yet to demonstrate broader understanding and create value there are three areas to consider.

1. Company - e.g. people, objectives, cash flow, culture, processes,resource.
2. Market - e.g. competitors, buyer trends, technological advances
3. Global - e.g. economies, exchange rates, social changes, world events.Possible sources of customer (and competitor) information


• Kompass Register

• Who owns whom
• Dun & Bradstreet
• Stock Exchange Year Book
• Yellow Pages
• Kelly’s Directory

Most of these are available in your local library ( Reference section). For more specialist directories consult the Directory of Directories.

Official, semi-official and professional bodies

• Professional Institutes and Trade Associations
• Companies House -
• Small Firms’ Information Centre
• Embassies (export trade, etc)
• Chambers of Commerce - Export Credit Guarantee Department
• H M Revenue and Customs
• Local Councils - planning authorities, etc
Department for Business Innovation and Skills

You can obtain information about these from the Internet, telephone directories and/or your local library.
Websites for
Economist Magazine
Financial Times
Director Magazine

Other Sources

• Internet/intranet
• Advertisements
• Mailing lists/circulars
• House journals/magazines
• Union publications
• Exhibitions, seminars, conferences
• Vehicles (addresses, email and telephone numbers)
• Personal canvassing
• Observation
• Local radio and television
• The local/regional/national press (e.g. city pages, classified advertisements)
• Trade journals/publications
• Business contacts (e.g. other salespeople in non-competitive industries)
• Social contacts
• Individuals in your own company (e.g. finance, marketing, sales managers, service engineers)
• Your existing company records
• Associate companies
• Existing customers
Merchant Banks -industry specialists ( per sector) e,g, listen out on Radio 4 Today programme for spokespeople from the likes of Dresdner, Investec, UBS and the Stockbroker pundits.

Related Links

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Sales Resource Planning - Right time -Right Place

"Procrastination" they say "is the thief of time", but for sure professional salepeople need to be ruthless with time but generous with people.
Relationship building requires an element of 'chatting' and small talk.

I wonder how many hours though, will be spent talking about last Friday's Royal wedding- perhaps more than really needs to be?!
For many employed in conventional office roles the extra bank holiday* we've just enjoyed due to the Royal wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was an extra day's holiday- a day off work.
For many salespeople however, it meant one day less available for selling to beat that sales target.

Maybe this is less of a worry for desk based sales in these days of Selling 2.0 but there are still plenty of professionals in selling expected to go out and meet customers, press the flesh and 'knock on doors'.
( This slide came from some research years ago when there were more salespeople 'on the road' but for those still involved in field selling they might prove interesting.)

It got me thinking again about time.

How much time do we have available to us in selling?
Here is a typical example of a delegate's calculation I see on courses. You could well have even less time than this example if you have over 20 days holiday entitlement, more time on administration, processing emails or longer periods of technical, product training and sales skills training etc.

Part A - How days many days available for field selling?
Total number of days available = 365 days

Less weekends .......................................................104
Less annual holidays............................................... 20
Less bank holidays..................................................... 9* ( Thanks to Prince William & Wife!)
Less training days ......................................................5
Less trade days ( Exhibitions, shows etc.) ...............10
Less conference days , sales meetings .......................3
Less sick days .............................................................3
Allow for Planning Days (1 per month)................... 12
Allow for ?
Total........................................................................200 days
Net time available (200 days x 8 hour day) ...............1,600 hours

Part B
Time usage per day:

Travelling ...................................................................3 hours
Waiting for meetings .................................................2 hours
Administration...........................................................1/2 hour
Emails ........................................................................1/2 hour
(@ hours per day x net available)
Part B How much time available for face to face selling?

Part B total time spent - ................................................6 hours
Total hours available to sell face to face........................2 hours

Total time available (Part A - Part B) per year 2 X 200 400 hours
Available time by year in days represents just 50 days. Or to put it another way 13% of the year is available for face to face selling.

Journey Planning for the many who still have to travel- "Road warriors".

Sat-nav may have made the skill of map reading redundant, but journey planning skills were only ever part of the skill of sales territory management. To manage a geographical sales territory you need a map to get the big picture into your head.

To be fully cost effective field salespeople need to maximise total face-to-face selling time (or phone contact time where this is an alternative).
With the rise of Selling 2.0 more selling is done from a desk base whether from home office or at a conventional office. However in many sales processes there is still a point where face to face meetings and presentations have a critical contribution to the process.

This means minimising travelling time and unproductive or wasted time, and ensuring that you are spending your face-to-face selling time productively.


One approach is to allocate the number of calls and the amount of time devoted to your clients and prospects in direct proportion to their actual or potential business volume. One popular grading system is

- A : large clients/prospects

- B : medium clients/prospects

- C : small but expanding

- D : small but diminishing.

Ensure that the A's and B's receive most of your attention but that the C's and D's are not completely neglected. Remember that the total time you devote is made up of the NUMBER OF CONTACTS and the AVERAGE DURATION of those contacts.

You must also spend your time with the right people, who can either be DECISION MAKERS or DECISION INFLUENCERS or a combination of the two. Do not waste much time with those who have neither authority nor influence, but equally you must never make enemies of them by ignoring them completely.

Deciding how much time to spend on each client or prospect is the first step.

Then you have to decide how and where to contact them. Contact by telephone and/or mail is never as good as a personal visit. But it is better than nothing and can be a cost effective way of cutting down the total amount of personal selling time needed, especially with C's and D's. But you need a good territory planning technique for fitting in as many personal calls as possible, and also leaving you enough flexibility to respond to urgent requests. Because territories differ so much in size, layout and client density there is no single technique that works for everyone - you have to work out one that suits your circumstances.

One good basis for a plan is to sub-divide your territory into five separate segments allowing for client density, client grades, distances and travel times from your base. Aim to equalise your daily work load rather than equalising geographical areas. You can then set up a simple weekly cycle such as one of those shown in Figures 1 or 2 attached.

A more sophisticated four-weekly rotating call pattern is shown in Figure 3.

Sub-divide each segment into individual journeys. Each sub-segment will contain one day's work so that, in a four-weekly rotation, the call pattern could be as in Figure 3.
This uses the same concept as 1 and 2 so that calling back on good prospects or customers is made more feasible.

For a larger territory with varying concentrations of clients or prospects, you can use the sort of pattern shown in Figure 4 which shows how the method can be applied to a large territory with varying concentrations of customers/prospects.

Save time by efficient journey planning. Try to use the "petal" approach in your daily route planning as per the solid line in Figure 5 rather than the "out and back" approach as shown by the dotted line.

Other techniques for saving time, or using it more efficiently, are

- make your first call earlier

- make your last call later

- have the right equipment in your car and at home for keeping your paperwork, records, sales
aid, etc well organised

- always have with you some "time fillers" -
short or easy jobs which can be done in time periods that might otherwise be wasted (eg long delays in reception, cancelled appointments, arriving at client's premises too early)

- fill up your petrol tank at the end of each day

- have details of contingency calls with you in case an appointment is broken or takes less

- use motorways - more miles but less time

- try to group calls in one area per day and do
multiple calls in one location where

- make more use of the mobile to chase orders
and handle queries

- carry maps ( don't just rely on Sat nav) and common sense maintenance items such as de-icer, tool-kit.

Every little bit of time saved on non-productive activities gives an increase in potential face-to-face selling time
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