Monthly Archives: December 2011

96% missing out on valuable sales intelligence

Arnold* is the consummate sales professional. In his line of business, he’s a recognized leader and has been aptly nicknamed…you guessed it…the “Terminator”. I recently interviewed him for a project on sales best practices, and was surprised to find that he wasn’t using Facebook to gather intelligence.

LinkedIn was on his radar screen, but he only used Facebook in his personal life. Arnold is not alone. Based on a recent survey**, 96% of salespeople don’t use this valuable source of intelligence!

Below are 3 ways Facebook can increase business development effectiveness:

1.   Find shared connections

Facebook identifies shared connections for both friends and non-friends, just like LinkedIn. Knowing this information before meetings has obvious benefits, after all, it’s not what-you-know but who-you-know when it comes to building rapport.

2.   Leverage common interests

Facebook shows “Interests” for both friends and non-friends (most of the time). Knowledge of this information significantly increases your chances of establishing genuine connections, but now we can avoid the hit-and-miss practice of fishing for information in the middle of the meeting!

For example, Arnold coaches squash out of a love for the game. The very first time Arnold used Facebook to gather sales intelligence, he discovered that a potential customer shared his passion. As a result, their first conversation revolved around squash, not business, putting him on the path to an authentic relationship. Arnold feels strongly that this foreknowledge accelerated the sales process and, ultimately, helped close the deal.

3.   Establish brand

Facebook is a low-cost way to share information and content that establishes your brand. Don’t forget, people use Facebook to do diligence on YOU too! Your personal and company pages are powerful tools to communicate value-added information that establishes your credibility. They are also a channel for customers to voice their needs and requirements, which when addressed, will convert them into champions for you and your business.

Arnold now uses Facebook for every deal, because it works. If you are one of the 96%, it’s time you became a Terminator.

* name changed to protect the innocent

** Survey conducted by FunnelBoard of 43 front-line and senior management level BD professionals from different industries

Watch out for the “yes, damn!” effect. It’s a credibility killer.

Have you ever made a promise to do something in the future, and then immediately regretted it?  Or even worse, failed to live up to a commitment because you said “yes” once too often?  Of course you have. We all do this from time-to-time, saddling ourselves with more work than time (Note to self: apologize to my wife for not cleaning the garage).  Psychologists call this the “yes, damn” effect.

The problem is particularly acute in the world of sales.  So why are salespeople more susceptible to the “yes, damn!” effect? How can they be helped?

The “why” is simple.  Salespeople like to say “yes”.  Sales is an attractive career for people-people, where high EQ is a big asset.  Unfortunately, many people-people (myself included) don’t like saying “no”.  The  major reasons include:

  • Optimism
  • Fear of losing the deal
  • Duty
  • Respect for authority
  • Need for power (“they will owe me big time”)
  • Need to be liked

People are also bad at predicting the future.  According to Gal Zauberman from the Wharton School of Business, we are psychologically biased to believe we’ll have more time in the future than we do today.  The farther in the future the commitment, the easier it is to say “yes”.  The problem is this: we really don’t have more time in the future!  Monday next month will be as busy as Monday this week.

Combining a penchance for “yes” with a weakness at future planning is a bad recipe for execution.  Here are four tricks that make it easier to say “no” and plan more effectively:

  1. Double all time estimates.  This trick is a classic consultant trick.  If you think the commitment is going to require two hours, then assume four hours before you say “yes”.
  2. Ask yourself: could I do it tomorrow?  Since you likely won’t have more time next month than tomorrow, consider whether you would say “yes” if the commitment came due tomorrow.  Would it be worth re-arranging your schedule tomorrow?  If the answer is “no” for tomorrow, it should probably be “no” in the future too.
  3. Delay.  We’re more likely to say “yes” if we are surprised.  The best strategy is to delay responding.  “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you” buys time to make the right decision without pressure.
  4. Make no mean no. Don’t waffle!  Once you start down the path of “well, maybe I could if…” your ship is sunk.

Be a better advisor, salesperson or coach. Avoid these 6 things.

If you are a business leader, salesperson or advisor, I bet you’ve walked away from some conversations with clients or employees completely “knackered”, as the Brits say.  If so, you may have been attached to something or attempting to control the conversation.

Here are six attachments guaranteed to drain your energy and limit your effectiveness as an advisor:

  • The need to be right or look good
  • The need to produce a desired result or achieve a certain objective
  • The need to be understood or prove your point
  • The need to have people agree with you
  • The need to avoid being wrong or looking bad
  • The need to avoid hearing “no”

Attachments lead to a struggle for power and control.  Not surprisingly, struggles are not particularly effective in communication.  Barriers to listening go up, creativity evaporates, people feel unheard and you appear inflexible.  Effective coaching, selling and consultative advising requires the ability to listen openly, authentically and with 100% focus on the speaker.  Even if you win a struggle based on an attachment, you lose.

It’s all too easy to become fixated on a future outcome (we are all guilty of this from time-to-time), such the need to be right or desire to achieve a specific result.  Meanwhile, the client or employee is speaking in the present moment.  When one abandons future outcomes and joins the other person in the present, it’s possible to achieve amazing results.  To create possibilities instead of negativity.

There are books and training that can help you improve your coaching skills.  Coaching Sales People Into Sales Champions by Keith Rosen is just one  book that I found helpful.

I believe that the coaching philosophy is equality powerful for consultants and managers.  If you are a consultant, would you agree ?  I welcome your feedback.

6 steps to building better relationships. Step one is SHUT UP.

I am a business book junkie (Step #1 is admit that you have a problem, right?).  Fortunately this habit has upsides.  For example, common themes are very obvious when one has several books on the go.

One such theme is the power of listening.  Whether you are reading about winning friends & influencing people, leadership, effective habits, coaching or cold calling, 99% of authors advise us to “listen more than we talk”.  We’ve all heard this before, so why are they re-stating the obvious?  Well, as the old saying goes, “common sense is not always common practice”.

Here are a few reasons we forget to listen based on my observations  (I won’t tell you which one I was guilty of this week):

  • Passion and excitement can overpower patience
  • Everyone likes to be heard, it makes us feel important
  • Being “right” is like a drug, it feels good even though it is bad for you
  • We forget we’re more interesting when we are more interested
  • Crackberry or iPhone addiction

No one is perfect, nor will we ever be.  That’s just life, but reviewing and recommitting to the goal of effective listening will help your relationships in a big way.

People do business with people that authentically care about them.  Listening is the primary way to demonstrate that you care.  Here is a list of 6 points that I keep tacked on my wall.  Hopefully, they will be a useful reminder for you too.

1.   Shut up!  The less you talk the more you’re liked.

Example: Many people feel that unless they are talking about their product, a sales meeting will not succeed.  Mistake!  Buying is about trusting and liking.  Again, people buy from those they like, know and trust. Show people you care by shutting up.  The more you listen, the more you will sell.

2.   Listen with your body

 Body language is as important as verbal communication:

    •  Maintain eye contact
    • Lean slightly forward most of the time
    • “Mirror” the speakers body to a degree, this happens naturally for most people when they connect authentically, but watch your body language just in case
    • Nod to let them know you are hearing them
    • Speak only occasionally, to communicate “I’m hearing you”.
    • Smile or frown in accordance with what is being said

 3.   Concentrate on the speaker exclusively

You know how it feels when someone stops mid-conversation, or half concentrates, while using their mobile phone or tablet.  If you MUST take a call or send an email, at least apologize and excuse yourself at an appropriate point in the conversation.  Show respect by owning your bad manners.  If you are on the phone, don’t forget that the listener can hear your keyboard when you email.  This is a great way to make someone think you’re a jerk.

 4.    Know about the speaker, do your homework

Whenever a person remembers a detail about me, I feel they CARE.  When they show an authentic interest in things I care about, I feel they CARE.  If you want to do deals or make friends, you’d better keep notes or do your homework on people in your network.  Fortunately, this has never been easier.  Social media and the thousands of resources on the web make this dead easy.

 5.  Listen, listen and then listen again.  Build relationships not connections

Build over time.  Build on credibility.  Build on REPEATED demonstrations that you care.  Listening and rapport building is not just a step in the process, it is a process.  Focus on what the other person cares about, even if it is not work related, and do it frequently.  I know how hard this is for some of us.  We just want to get to work, but remind yourself that investing in relationships saves time in the end…it may even save a deal.

6.   Add YOUR personal step here and then review from time-to-time

We all have our own particular listening challenges, so I encourage you to make your own list, then put a note in your calendar to remind you to listen from time-to-time.

I would love to get your thoughts on effective communication.  Do you agree with my points?  Do you have advice that you can share that is missing from my post?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Fact: 50% of professional networkers don’t use LinkedIn

Chances are you are already using LinkedIn to gather intelligence on your network and customers. That is probably how you found my blog. Almost everyone who uses social media understands the benefit of professional network visibility. It is no surprise that “Linking In” after a meeting is SOP in many industries.

But are sales people getting the full benefit of using LinkedIn? No, according to 43 business leaders that I surveyed. Amazingly, LinkedIn is used for sales call preparation by barely 50% of business development professionals across industries.

In light of this surprising finding, I will dedicate a number of posts over the coming weeks to network intelligence gathering.  Please feel free to contribute. I am by no means the authority on social media and welcome your input!

Whether you are a salesperson, consultant, business founder, lawyer or developer, you cannot afford to ignore this source of customer and competitive intelligence.  Using LinkedIn effectively is critical to staying ahead of your competitors.

I hope these posts will be helpful to anyone who has recently jumped into social business development or is considering doing so.

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