Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The ABCs of Sales - Q is for Questions

Ask more questions.  This is the best piece of advice I can share with you, and it will make you more successful in sales and all other aspects of life that involves interacting with humans.

If you want to establish real relationships and understand what motivates those whom you are engaged with you have to ask questions and listen to what they have to say. 

Talking is easy, but listening is the key to all success.  When you are the one speaking, you cannot be learning. When the other person is telling you about their situation they are leaving clues that will help you solve their problems.  People buy from you to fill a void or fix an issue, and if you are not clear on their motivation, they will buy from the sales person who shows them they understand.

Customers buy your product or service on their terms, not yours.  We spend a lot of time memorizing elevator pitches and product positioning statements, but if we simply memorized more open-ended questions, we could create better connections and win more business.

I will admit that I have struggled with this all my life. I am a story-teller by nature and having grown up in a big Irish family I learned early to spin a tale. I like to entertain others, and a good story is a natural way to make a connection.  But in sales it can also hurt if you lead with too many words. I continue to learn this lesson, but when I begin with an inquisitive intention and actively hear what the prospect has to say, I close more sales. 

A good way to remember to ask more questions before presenting your solutions is to prepare a list of things to ask everyone.  This list will vary based on your industry and the individual with whom you are talking, but you should start with two or three open-ended questions that allows them to share the details they are facing.  After they spell out the big picture you need to move into clarifying questions to make sure that you are clear on their unique situation.  Everyone faces different situations and when you make assumptions about why they are looking to buy, it can be far too easy to slide into a canned pitch.

It is okay to keep a list of written questions with you so that you can refer to them.  Most people will appreciate the attention to detail you are paying to their unique circumstances.  Over time these questions will become easier to remember and you will train yourself not to lead with too much talking.

You can practice this anywhere, even in non-sales settings.  Each time you meet someone new try to ask them three questions in a causal but genuinely curious manner. They should not be canned like "what's your name?" or "Where do you work?", although in a polite situation those might be necessary questions, too.  Try to get to what motivates them or how they got where they are.  I tried this experiment in line at a Starbucks recently and had a very interesting conversation with a World War II veteran and his grandson. While it was not a business conversation, it was fascinating and made my whole day better.

Being curious about people in all aspects of your life can be a secret weapon. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

*Thom Singer is a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies.  He talks regularly to corporate audiences in competitive industries that are sales focused and whose people are seeking greater success.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The ABCs of Sales - P is for Prospecting

Sales professionals should always seeking new leads.  Before a sale can be made and a commission check collected, the sales person must first discover the right individuals to call on.  There are many people with great sales skills who fail to reach their potential because they do not have a commitment to consistently prospecting. Without enough prospects, you will have fewer leads, and thus not enough eventual customers

There are several ways to prospect, and no one way is right for every sales person in every industry.  The key is to remember that prospecting is a process and to be successful you have to always be working a variety of efforts. 

My own business as a professional speaker relies mainly on referrals. The most effective way for me to discover new opportunities is through word-of-mouth.  However, if you sit around and wait for referrals to show up, you will most likely not have enough business.  You need to keep your referral sources and others constantly informed about what you are doing, what is new with your business, and remind them how much you appreciate their support.  

Networking is another key way to prospect.  Being visible in your business community will bring you in contact with potential clients and referral sources.  (I talked more about "networking" in The ABCs of Sales - N is for Networking).

One of the best ways to prospect is to speak at industry events and / or to host educational events.  When you are the speaker you are automatically positioned as the expert in your field. The same is true for writing articles for business oriented magazines and blogs.  Invest time in teaching others and they will think of you when the time comes to buy your products or services.

Finally, while cold-calling may sound "old-school", it can still be an great way to reach out to people.  It is hard to reach people, as most have voicemail and do not return calls, but if you have an interesting product and can clearly and concisely communicate your message, there are some who will return you call.  The key is to have a thick skin and realize than many people will say "no".  That is okay, as a few might say "yes".  Fear of rejection keeps many sales people from cold calling, but those who pick up the phone regularly are often the most successful.

Sales is hard, which is why it can pay so well.  But to reach the top of the financial pay scale you have to become a master at prospecting. There are no short cuts.  If this was easy, everyone would do it.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

 Thom Singer is a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies.  He talks regularly to corporate audiences in competitive industries that are sales focused and whose people are seeking greater success.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The ABCs of Sales - O is for Opportunity

Few jobs will offer as much opportunity as a career in sales. If you can succeed in selling you will always be in demand. Great sales people are important to the success of every company, and they are compensated at the highest levels. The best companies value the skills it takes to thrive in a business development role.

Many mistakenly discredit sales, thinking it is not a key role in the business. Some are jealous of the freedom from being in the office that sales people enjoy, and fail to see the real work that happens. But selling is one of the hardest ways to earn a living. To consistently succeed a sales professional must work long hours and always be seeking new ways to discover prospective clients. Those who do the best do not take rejection personally and are willing to work long hours.

Income from sales jobs is heavily (or totally) commission based. While this turns off those who prefer to have a set salary, it excites those who want unlimited upside in their earning. If a salesperson is aggressive and driven to make a lot of money, sales will give them opportunities that others will not find in their job.

I spent my early career selling a variety of products and services. The more I succeeded, the more money I earned, but also the more career opportunities came along. Smart sales managers are always looking for top talent, and they are willing to hire sales people from other industries. It is easier to teach someone about a new product than it is to teach them how to prospect, cultivate leads, present, and close.

The top tier of sales professionals are not focused on single transactions, but instead are focused on long-term relationships. But most important is they are results driven. Their resumes show where and how they have impacted the top line of the companies where they have worked. Talk and theory only go so far in a career of selling. You are always able to quantify a sales professional's effectiveness based on their success at bringing in new business. This can be scary for some, but is why the best sales people love to share the details of their history.

To have a career with unlimited opportunity a sales person needs to be confident. Belief in "self" and bold actions position you with clients, prospects, competitors, and others as the one to watch in your industry. If you study those who are offered the best jobs in sales you will find people who are never complacent or rest on their past success. They know their potential and couple that with the necessary actions to keep learning and growing.

A sales career is hard work and there are ups and downs in all industries, but the people who sell and are willing to do the work will always have a path to income. A lifetime in sales will bring a lot of interesting experiences and a variety of jobs offers. It can also bring great financial reward.

Selling is the path to opportunity.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, December 16, 2016

ThingsTo Do In Austin While At PCMA Convening Leaders

With the PCMA Convening Leaders event just days away I am getting some inquiries from friends and clients about fun things to do in Austin (since I have lived in the Texas Capital for 25 years).  Here are some ideas, but there are so many more.
Just a few restaurants you may want to try-- but you will need a car to get to some of them...or take Ride Austin (like Uber - but we dont have uber in Austin).
  • The Salt Lick (in Driftwood, about 30 miles away, but good if you are hungry and with a big group who want to do family style BBQ)
  • Guero's Taco Bar. (on South Congress) 
  • Geraldine's (Restaurant in Van Zandt Hotel- Rainey Street).  Wow, this is good food. Fun upscale atmosphere.
  • HopDoddy - Hamburgers (on South Congress)
  • The Vegan Yacht (a food truck of East Cesar Chavez)
  • Taco Deli (several locations). BEST TACOS (some will say Torchy's are the best tacos. They are wrong... but close 2nd). Note...Taco Deli is only open for breakfast and lunch.
  • East Side Cafe (on Manor)
  • Hula Hut. Sitting outside on the lake is awesome. 
  • Jo's Coffee on South Congress. This is where the famous "I love you so much" graffiti wall is locate (you may not know what I am talking about... but when you see it you will say "oh, I have seen that".... as everyone takes a photo in front of it and posts to FB).
  • Mozart's coffee. On Lake Austin. Great local coffee and a patio you will never forget if we have great weather.
  • Lick ice cream. Weird flavors.
  • Voodoo Donuts (yea, yea, they are HQ'd in Portland... but they are 5 blocks from Convention Center on 6th Street and open 24 hours. The donuts are awesome).
  • Wink (my favorite fine dining place... pricey but yum)
  • Italic (Downtown).
  • Iron Works... (dive BBQ place on back side of Convention Center... awesome).
  • Winflo is medium/high end but great food.
  • Three Forks is my favorite steakhouse, but Sullivan's, Vince Young Steak House, Bob's Chop House, and Perry's are all great.

This is just a start.
LIST of 25 famous old classic Austin restaurants…/historic-classic-austin-restauran…
The official food is BBQ, Mexican (TexMex), and Breakfast Tacos. The breakfast taco thing is a real local obsession that is not like any place. The New York Times even wrote an article a few years ago about Austin and their breakfast tacos.
Things to see:
  • The Whole Foods Flagship Store. They now have some big stores in other cities... but this is located on the bottom of their 9 story office HQ and was the first giant store they opened. Whole Foods was founded in Austin by hippies. When I moved here they had two small dumpy stores that sold healthy stuff. Now they are... well now they are what we all know (huge, expensive, etc...)
  • The Capital Building. I know it seems weird, but take a tour with a guide. It is cool
  • South Congress Ave. This is the Keep Austin Weird area, and mostly local shops.... but the chains are coming as the real estate is now pricey and it may lose its charm in a few years... so wander around now, as next time you come to town it will all be The Gap and Donna Karan stores. Also, one of the first Food Trucks that started the whole national food trailer "thing" is HEY CUPCAKE in SoCo.
  • Take a Segway tour. Yes, even as a local I have done this... they show you downtown and it is a lot of fun.
  • 6th Street. This is the famous street with all the bars and all the bands play on the weekends. Lots of live music, booze, etc... Mostly where the college kids go... and with 50K undergrads at UT... there are lots out at night.
  • Go to Esthers Follies. This is a vaudeville style show on 6th on Thurs, Fri and Sat. It sells out most nights, so buy tickets in advance. 8 PM and 10 PM Shows. One block from hotel.
  • 2nd/4th Street area (Warehouse District). Most warehouses being torn down for high rise condos ... but lots of good bars and restaurants. More grown up crowd.
  • Tour the UT campus. Maybe get a tour to top of tower (need reservations).
  • Texas State Museum. This is cooler than you would think.... and Texas has a really rich history. Most who go are surprised about all the stuff they learn about this state (we are more than cowboy boots and GW Bush).
  • Buy your Cowboy Boots (many come to town and shop at Allen's Boots on South Congress).  It is next door to Guero's Taco Bar.
  • You have heard about the Bats that live in the bridge? Yep, Austin is the home of the largest colony of bats... but they dont live here in the winter. Come back in July.
  • Walk along Lady Bird Lake. I call it Town Lake, as that was the name until the former first lady (Lady Bird Johnson) died in 2007 (yes, she lived that long). They have a nice running trail that goes on both sides. If you run... this is your trail.
  • If the weather is good go have drinks on the 2nd story outdoor patio at the Steven F Austin hotel (7th and Congress AV). this is my favorite place to drink beer or wine on a good day. Also there is an outdoor bar in the new Marriott Hotel (2nd and Congress).  And the bar in the Driskill Hotel has a cool copper ceiling..check it out.
  • Take the Duck Tour. Yes, many cities have these now... but Austin's has been around as long as I remember. You get to see a lot of thing.

There you have it folks.  This will keep you busy, but my list only scratches the surface. 

Welcome to all my PCMA Friends!!!  Austin is a wonderful and weird city. Enjoy the food, party feeling, and the super nice people. Buy lots of stuff (we appreciate the economic boost).  

Get up early on Monday and Tuesday at Convening Leaders and attend the morning orientation (I am leading this session both days... come say hello and start your day with some motivation, education, and I promise you will meet some new people.  Both sessions are different, so come to one or both).

Have A Great Experience at Convening Leaders

thom singer

Sunday, December 04, 2016

The ABCs of Sales - N is for Networking

All opportunities come from people. To reach your full potential you need a group of peers to help you connect the dots, as no individual can ever be aware of everything that is happening in their business community. The most successful sales professionals are often great at creating long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with clients, prospects, referral sources and even competitors.

Networking is not about just getting leads or other personal gains. As mentioned above you have to cultivate long-term and mutually beneficial relationships, which means real networking means helping others reach their highest potential. Average performers justify they are too busy with their own jobs to think about ways to assist others, but the most successful know that a rising tide raises all boats.

You cannot sell most products or services by hiding behind social media. All things being equal, people do business with those they know, like, and trust. It used to be that getting to know someone was long process and along the way came "like" and "trust" (or not). But over the past decade the ease of discovering basic information via the internet has mistakenly made it seem like people all "know" each other. But really they just know "about" them. It is harder to get to like and trust without some personal interactions, and this is where being engaged with other is they key.

Networking should not be seen as an action you take when you need something, but instead it must be a part of your lifestyle. Those who make networking a second-tier priority will have second-tier results. To realize the benefits from networking one has to have a long-term focus. Finding ways to help others achieve their goals will come back many times over a career.

It is important to remember that networking is NOT sales. But sales efforts without the human connection will often come up short. Do not confuse networking activities with sales activities, but remember that a transaction without any long-term meaning is simply a transaction. When we do business with another person it can be a foundation for future opportunities. However if the purpose is simply to get the sale, and there is not investment in the person, we should not be surprised when our client's referrals and future business go to our competition.

Some argue that they do not have time to invest in a relationship with everyone they meet. I believe we must choose people every time. This does not mean everyone becomes your best friend, but if you honor every person many will return the favor. Most people you encounter have very interesting parts to their lives beyond signing your contract. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Be curious. You will not have an ongoing "love connection" with everybody, but if you are open to it, you will create some powerful business friendships along the way.

Every time you are in a sales situation remind yourself that the person on the other side of the transaction is a person... .and all people have a life beyond the product or service being discussed. Make it a point to find out about their life. If you are interested in them they will become interested in you.

Networking is the creation of long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships between two or more people where everyone involved gains more from the connections than they would without the connections. It is that simple.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Networking At PCMA Convening Leaders Conference in Austin (January 2017)

In January the Professional Convention Managers Association (PCMA) will be hosting their annual "Convening Leaders" conference in my home city of Austin, Texas. I am excited that so many clients, freinds, and others in the convention industry will be here in the Capital of Texas. 

Thousands of event professionals will convene for a week of high level learning, fun, and networking.

Regardless of industry, a top reason people attend conventions is the "Networking Opportunities" -- but once they arrive on-site many fail at the process of making legitimate, meaningful and long-lasting connections.

Below is an excerpt from my "Conference Catalyst" content on how to maximize an event.

Having a plan, making networking a priority, and being focused on how to help others are just a few of the steps that will allow anyone to get the most value from attending these types of events. Follow up is the key to creating mutually beneficial and ongoing conversations. - And it is important to remember that successful networking connections never happens by accident.

Ten Tips For Networking At A Multi-Day Conference

1. Have a plan. Know in advance whom you want to meet.  Do not leave your networking to chance.  Reach out to peers, vendors, speakers, and others before you arrive and schedule times to meet up in person.

2. Bring plenty of business cards. In today’s digital world some argue against the importance of business cards. But having a card is not for you, it is for the other person. Some people forget names quickly and asking for a card helps them recall your details. Telling someone “Google Me” is making them work to keep in touch. Additionally we don’t all use the same technologies, so using a special app assumes we all adopt the same tools. Not carrying business cards can be selfish, and selfish is so last year!

3. Do not focus on meeting the celebrities. While meeting famous authors, speakers, and other industry gurus is fun, you are one of hundreds who will come up to them and shove a card in their hands. Instead, place your focus on meeting other people who are like you that are in attendance at the event. It is peers with whom you are most likely to bond with and create real long lasting mutually beneficial friendships.

4. Talk to the people sitting next to you. When you walk into a general session or breakout, take the time before the presentation begins to say hello to the people seated around you. I call this the "power of hello". Once you have said something as simple as "hello", the conversation will begin to flow nataurally.  Small conversatinos will also lead to longer talks later in the week if you see them again.

5. Ask questions of people you meet. Never lead with your "elevator pitch". People are more interested in themselves than they are in you, so ask them questions to help them get to talking. A great question is "why did you decide to attend this event?"

6. Put your technology away. Do not run to your iPhone or tablet at every break. When you are working on electronics you send the message that you are unapproachable and busy. Utilize the time on coffee breaks to converse with other humans who are present at the event. Look around and smile rather than texting.

7. Do not automatically send a LinkedIn or Facebook request. Too often people immediately send social networking link requests to people they just met. However, different people have different policies about whom they link online. If they believe in only connecting with those whom they have established relationships, you make it awkward if you send them a link too early (which they then ignore). Best is to ask people if they would welcome such a link at this time. Be respectful of the fact that they might use social networking differently than you do. Immediately following them on Twitter or Instagram is okay, as Twitter does not require a mutual connection acceptance.

8. Read their stuff. Many people are active bloggers, tweeters, podcasters, authors, etc... If people create the content, seek out their work and read it. A great way to get to know people by reading their stuff.  Telling someone you follow their blog or podcast will instantly make them join the conversation, as they will be honored.

9. Introduce people to eachother. When you meet cool people, be the conduit that connects them with others who might be beneficial to them. This includes those at the conference, as well as other people you might know back home. If you ask the right types of questions, you will easily spot connections that can help others. Don't ever worry about "what's in it for me", but instead just be the person who connects. You will find over time that others will help you too if they know you naturally a giver.

10. Follow up. If you meet interesting people and you never follow up, it makes no difference. Own the follow up after the conference and send positive emails (or better yet, a handwritten note) telling them how much you enjoyed talking with them, and plan for future discussions.

11. Do more than others expect from you. Bring more to a new relationship than the other person expects and they will always remember you as someone who is a giver. Invite them along to lunch or dinner with your group of friends or get them into a cool party. Those who help others always get more down the line.

If you are going to the PCMA Conference.... or any industry convention.... make your networking efforts count!

**If you are attending Convening Leaders, be sure to come to the Morning Orientation at 7:00 AM on Monday and Tuesday. Thom Singer will be hosting these daily kick-offs, and we will do more by 8:00 AM than most people will do all day!!

Have A Great Day