Two Questions to Close a Sale

I was having breakfast with a client in Denver before a training program I was giving, and we were talking about the importance of asking questions and listening. He told me that a few years ago he was working for a company selling an IT solution, and that while dealing with the Director of IT, he suddenly had an opportunity to meet the new CFO. This was unexpected and he had to think fast!

Here’s what happened:

As he was leaving, and right after meeting with the IT Director, he asked him how he could get in front of the new CFO (knowing that the CFO was the ultimate decision maker). Just as he asked this question, an executive was walking down the hall toward them. The Director said, “That’s the new CFO right there. Let me introduce you to him.”

As he was introduced, my client asked the CFO, “I’d love to spend a few minutes with you and wondered when we could get some time on your calendar to do that?” To his surprise, the CFO said, “I have about 10 minutes right now, come on into my office.”

He followed the CFO into his office, sat down across the desk and the CFO said, “So, what’s on your mind?” My client’s mind went blank, and he just sat there for a moment. He hadn’t expected to be here at this time and found himself unprepared.

Luckily, that didn’t last too long and before he knew it he said, “I have just two questions for you. First, when a client of yours leaves you and buys from someone else, what is the main reason for that? And second, what is the main reason a new client goes with you rather than your competition?”

After that, my client opened his notebook, pen in hand, and waited.

And waited. And waited…

After nearly five full minutes (a nerve racking five minutes to be sure), the CFO finally began to speak. “That’s a great question, and I’m going to have to think carefully about that. In fact, no one has ever asked me that before…”

The CFO then went on to give his thoughts about this, and, after he was done, he thanked him and promised to follow up with more information – which he did. After a few weeks, the CFO then followed up again and made a purchase from my client and his company.

He said of the interaction: “The two questions you asked me were the best two questions I’ve ever been asked. They forced me to evaluate the only two things that really matter – what means the most to our clients.”

My client was obviously pleased with how this turned out, but he told me that the real lesson he learned from the interaction is just how long some prospects take to think about questions they are asked.

He told me, “Since I was there when I asked the question, I could see he was carefully thinking about my questions. Since I could see that, I didn’t interrupt him – instead I just shut up and let him think.

He continued: “This situation revealed the real challenge we face as inside sales reps. When we ask questions over the phone and don’t get an immediate response, we tend to keep talking. This is the worst thing we can do. We absolutely have to train ourselves to ask questions and then remain quiet and listen.”

When I asked him the best way to teach reps to do this, he said that using the mute button was the easiest and best way.

If you have read any of my articles or books, then you know my favorite four words are, “Shut up and listen.” You also know that I think the mute button is the most important button on your phone.

To prove this to yourself, make a commitment today to asking questions and using the mute button to let your prospect answer you. You’ll be surprised by what your prospects will reveal and how much easier it is to close sales.

How to Negotiate for Higher Pay (Part Five of Five)

Welcome to Part Five of our five part series entitled: “How to Apply for and Get a Better Paying Job.” If you have been following along, then by now you have learned some crucial steps you can take to virtually guarantee you get called back by the hiring manager of the job you really want.

Now that you have taken some time to write out sample cover letters, and have invested the time to customize your resume to the job(s) you want, you have no doubt landed interviews with the kinds of companies that can further your career. If you have interviewed well – in other words, if you carefully listened to each question the hiring manager asked, and then responded succinctly and on point (without over talking), and you were upbeat and confident – then you probably have several offers from competing companies. What a nice position to be in!

If so, then the final piece to landing the job of your dreams is to learn how to ask for – and get – the kind of salary or compensation package you really deserve. And what we’re talking about here is learning how to negotiate how you are compensated. What is so interesting about this phase of the interview process is that most people don’t even know (or attempt) to negotiate their comp plans. Instead, they think that what they are offered is what they have to accept. And that is not always the case.

The reason for this is because it is very hard for companies to find good people to hire. Just think about how many resumes the hiring manager receives (hundreds for a sales position), and think about how many of those are no good (for one or many reasons). Again, 80 – 90% of the resumes a company receives are not qualified for the position.

Next, think about all the interviews a hiring manager has to deal with. First, anywhere between 20 to 30% of interviews don’t even show up! No calls of explanation – just a no-show. Next, of the people that do show up, many of them are disqualified in person for one reason or another.

And then think about how excited the hiring manager is to finally meet you. First, your cover letter and resume put you at the top of the list. In fact – and take it from me, again, I’ve interviewed thousands of job applicants over the years – once a hiring manager has seen the kind of resume you have put together, they are chomping at the bit to meet you. Unless you show up in a ripped jeans and a tank top, or if you can’t string two words together, OR if you can’t shut up after answering a question, then just plan on being offered the position.

I’ll tell you now, the hiring manager is praying that you are even half as good as your resume, and if you are, then you are going to get an offer. And after you do, the hiring manager will be praying again that you accept it. This will save her/him all the time of searching through and screening unqualified applicants again.

So once the hiring manager has met with you, and you aced the interview, this is your best chance to begin negotiating for either a higher salary, a better comp plan, or both – or more! There are several areas you can negotiate and they are listed below. Be confident, recognize that you hold all the cards here and that all they can say is no. In fact, in many cases, they will make you a counter offer which means you still win!

#1: As for a sign-on bonus. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than two-thirds of companies have trouble recruiting full time talent. And because companies have trouble finding qualified candidates, once they find one, they will often go out of their way to land them. In fact, according to WorldatWork, 76% of all companies now offer sign-on bonuses. And they are not just for CEO’s or other executives either.

The way to ask for a sign-on bonus is pretty straight forward. After the hiring manager has laid out the compensation package, if no sign-on bonus is offered, you simply ask (in an assumptive way):

“And what type of sign-on bonus do you offer?” And then sit quietly and let them talk.

As you noticed, I said to ask for it in an assumptive way, not ask: “Do you offer a sign-on bonus?” This is important. Asking in an assumptive way tells them this is something you expect or perhaps might have been offered from other companies.

If they say there isn’t a sign-on bonus, then you can calmly come back with,

“I see. Well there are other opportunities I’m meeting with (or have met with), and if all things are equal, one of the deciding factors for me will be a sign on bonus. So let me get back with you after I’ve completed my interviews.”

If they still aren’t willing to at least see if there is a bonus, then just leave cheerfully and tell them you will be in touch with them. Believe me, if you made as good of an impression as your resume and cover letter did, then that hiring manger is going to go to the powers that be and talk about what they can offer you as a sign-on bonus.

If you decide – even if they don’t offer you a bonus – to take a job with that company, then you will have set them up for the next discussion which is to receive more pay.

#2: Ask for regular salary adjustments. This is an area where that sales reps (and other employees) seldom think about, but it can make a huge difference in your overall earning ability. For example, a salary adjustment (or raise) of just $10,000 a year by the time you are 45 years old, can mean an additional $232,000 in life time earnings. That’s big and can count a lot towards your retirement egg.

There are two ways to go about this. One is to ask for an annual salary review and the other is to ask for a salary increase based on performance – good for sales compensation packages such as commission sales. Let’s take them one at a time:

Asking for a salary adjustment can be based on either how you are compensated in proportion to others who have similar positons in similar companies, or a salary adjustment can be tied to an annual performance review. Either way, you should be prepared for the review by knowing what other positions are currently paying or/and by having a documented list of achievements or contributions you have made throughout the year.

During these annual reviews (or you can negotiate a semi-annual review), make sure you are able to justify why you deserve a salary adjustment, and help them realize your value. Be prepared to quantify your contributions and show how you performed in a department or on a project, in terms of time line, budget and overall effectiveness. Also, see if you can show how your contribution impacted the bottom line.

If you are in sales (and confident in your sales ability), then tie your salary adjustment to an increase in monthly commission payout. Make this a tiered increase so that the more you sell, the more you are compensated. One tip here is to always make your next level payouts retro-active on your total sales for the month. An example would be if you earn 10% on sales volume up to $100,000, then ask for 13% (or more!) once you hit $101,000. But make it so that you earn that 13% on the entire sales volume, not just the amount over.

By the way, if you are asking for an increase in sales commission based on performance, you can also request a salary adjustment as well. The two are not mutually exclusive!

#3: The other way to earn more money when you sign on with a new company is to ask for a more senior position. This is something people rarely do, but this is a great way to instantly elevate your career. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me they went for a job as a member of a sales team and ended up in a supervisory role. I’ve also heard people go in for a marketing support role and were hired on as the marketing manager.

The reason for this is the same as before: Good help is hard to find! If you think hiring a sales rep is hard, you should hear how hard it is for companies to find good managers. And if you’ve been in sales a while (or any other field), then you probably have been managed and know a lot about the job description already. Also if you’ve been helping out in your department as you should be, then you probably already have some of the skills an employer is looking for.

You now have three different ways of earning more money with a company than you are probably used to getting. Don’t be shy about asking for it; remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained. If they say no, you haven’t lost anything, but if they say yes, you’ll have gained a lot!

This completes this series on “How to Apply for and Get a Better Paying Job.” You’ve learned some proven strategies that can and will get you better paying jobs that can mean a tremendous amount to you in terms of job satisfaction and lifetime compensation. I know that if you just take some time to apply what you’ve learned, then you and your family will be better off for it.

In the meantime, I wish you all the success in finding and landing your dream job!

Selling to Influencers (New Webinar: Nov 17th, 3pm EST)

These days, there can be a lot of people standing between you and the ultimate decision maker. There are assistants, office managers, purchasing agents, other C level managers, and in the case of B to C, even spouses and other family members. In some cases, you may be speaking with part of the decision making team, but that person may then have to present to a committee or other body of decision makers. With all the potential people standing between you and the “real decision maker,” how can you effectively move the sale forward?

In the phone calls I listen to each week, I hear many reps struggle with this exact scenario. Unfortunately, what I hear isn’t encouraging. To start with, what I find is that half the time reps don’t even know they are dealing with an influencer and so make the mistake of assuming they are the final decision maker. These closing calls often end with an objection I am sure you are familiar with: “I’ll have to run it by X.”

And you know how frustrating that is.

[Sign Up Here to learn how to “Deal More Effectively and Even Close the Influencer” during our new Webinar this Thursday, November 17th, at 3pm Eastern, Noon Pacific]

Next, on those closing calls when the rep does know they are speaking with an influencer, I find they often give up at the end of the close. They seem resigned to the fact that the prospect isn’t going to make a decision, and so they end their closing calls with something like, “So when will you speak with X?”

Not very empowering either.

The good news is that there are proven scripts and techniques you can use to both identify who you are speaking with, what their level of influence is, and even move towards closing them during your demo or presentation.

If you would like to know how to do that, then join me this Thursday, and I’ll give you all the tools and techniques you will need to both qualify the influencer during your prospecting call, and set them up to make a decision during your close.

Register Here If you deal with influencers, then this is one Webinar you and your team won’t want to miss!

How to Write a Killer Resume (Part Four)

Now that we know what to avoid when putting your resume together, let’s look at some essential elements that will ensure that your resume not only stands out, but that it creates an urgency on the part of the hiring manager to call you. As you will see, by following just a few rules you will be able to craft a compelling resume that instantly sets you up as the perfect candidate for any job you choose to apply for. Moreover, by taking just a little bit of time to customize your resume to the specific company you are applying to (it’s easy once you know how), you will make the hiring manager feel like your resume was written just for him/her. And that’s why you will be one of the first candidates they reach out to for an interview.

Number One: So, let’s start at the beginning. The first thing you want to put at the top of your resume is your complete contact information. This consists of four things:

• Your full name
• Your mailing address
• Your phone number
• Your email address

While this information may seem like a no-brainer, you will once again be surprised by how many people leave out either their phone number or email address or both! Leaving out this information makes a bad impression on the hiring manager, as you can imagine. Including it at the top saves the hiring manager from searching through your resume hoping to locate it, and it also makes it easy for him/her to reach out to you.

Number Two: Keep the formatting simple. This point could easily have been under the “What to avoid when writing your resume,” but I wanted to put it here as you actually get ready to write it. In a nutshell: Keep it plain and simple. Avoid the following:

Make sure you use text only:

• No shading or lines or borders
• No graphics, logos or fields
• No templates or PDF’s
• No headers or footers or page numbers
• No underlining or special characters

The reason for this is that whenever you submit your email electronically, there is a big chance that your formatting will get improperly transmitted or delivered, and this can easily lead to instantly disqualifying you. It has been estimated that as many as 75% of all resumes never even get seen because of improper formatting!

So KEEP IT SIMPLE

On the other hand, it is O.K., to use ALL CAPS (where appropriate), and to use Bold, or Italics. Use these sparingly, though, and only to make a special point.

Number Three: Think keywords. The content of your resume – your headings, summary of experience, previous job descriptions – should reflect the specific position and job posting you are applying for. Yes, this means that you will want to take a bit of time to tailor your resume for each specific job you are applying for, but it will pay off BIG TIME. Here are a couple of examples:

Summary Section: At the top of your resume, you should include a brief (and I’m talking two or three sentences) “Summary Section” where you list the specific skills and experience you have that match up to the position/job you are applying for. While writing a summary section is often neglected by job applicants, it acts as an easy and quick way for a hiring manager to quickly scan your resume and make a judgement on whether they want to read your resume or not. This is easy (and highly effective) if you just take a few minutes to do it right.

What you do is look at each specific job description you are applying for and pick out the specific skills, duties and responsibilities the job is looking for. So if the job description is looking for “An aggressive prospector/hunter who is used to making outbound calls,” your summary section should list something like this:

I AM AN AGGRESSIVE PROSPECTOR WHO IS USED TO HUNTING FOR ACCOUNTS.

EXCELS WITH EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE AT MAKING OUTBOUND CALLS TO GENERATE BOTH APPOINTMENTS AND LEADS.

As you can see, this matches up perfectly to what the hiring manager is specifically looking for, and as a result your resume will stand out among the hundreds of others that haven’t taken the time to do this. Remember, keywords like these (“aggressive,” “hunting,” “outbound calls,” are the specific things this hiring manager is looking for, and by making it obvious in your summary section that you possess them, you are in essence saying, “I’m the perfect candidate for you.” Believe me, they will keep reading through your resume.

Previous Experience: Next, you will want to keep listing these keywords throughout your previous job experience at the companies where it is appropriate. At each position where you did outbound calling, make sure and use those same keywords. Something like:

“At Safeco International, I excelled by making an aggressive number of outbound prospecting calls. In this hunter position, I was able to secure as many as five new appointments each day.”

Once again, you will see that as you list these keywords in your previous job experience, the hiring manager will keep nodding his or her head as they think, “This is the kind of person and experience I am looking for.” You should do this with each of the previous jobs you had (again, where it is appropriate), and it’s easy if you keep a copy of the job description in front of you as you tailor your resume.

Here is an example of how to turn a boring description (the kind your competition is submitting) into something that will not only make you stand out, but will make your resume outstanding!

Boring copy:

“At Safeco, my job responsibilities involved sourcing leads through internet research to discover appropriate companies matching our profile. I was then tasked with making outbound calls to secure appointments. Once appointments were set, I then called back to present our solution via a ClearSlide presentation. In addition, I have experience with Sales Force as well as other CRM systems.”

Are you yawning yet? The hiring manager sure is! Here is how to turn this around:

“At Safeco International – a leader in the cloud computing space – I was an upper tier producer out of an inside sales team of fifteen reps. Besides independently sourcing my own, high value leads, I aggressively hunted new accounts by cold calling and setting as many as three new appointments per day. After thoroughly qualifying these prospects, I then delivered targeted closing presentations and often had the highest closing percentage in the office. Through my consultative, yet focused closing approach, I was consistently among the top three closers in the office. I am adept at most CRM systems, including Sales Force, and am a fast learner and can easily adapt to other systems. At Safeco I learned to develop and hone a comprehensive approach to sourcing, developing and closing a steady pipeline of leads and look forward to applying my skills and experience in my next position.”

Now which one of these resumes would you want to call? Don’t dismiss this as extra work. Again, it’s easy to do and it makes a HUGE difference to the person reading and evaluating your resume. It can often make the difference between discarding your resume or calling to set an interview with you.

Number Four: Sell Yourself! Your resume is your personal advertisement and yet it’s amazing how many people fail to treat it this way. Think about how an ad copy professional would write your resume if it were their job to sell you to a hiring manager. Instead of listing your previous job title as, “Account Representative,” they might write “Outstanding Account Representative who prides himself on providing detailed customer service and timely responses for a complete customer experience.” See the difference?

Be creative and concentrate on developing a compelling image of yourself. Again, your job in putting together your resume is to sell yourself to whomever is looking at it. You want to stand head and shoulders above all the other blah resumes they receive. And with a little bit of effort, you can do just that. Here are some other examples for you:

“AWARD WINNING INSIDE SALES REPRESENTATIVE WITH A HISTORY OF GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND WHAT IS EXPECTED. AGGRESSIVE OUTBOUND CALLING STAR WHO PRIDES HIMSELF ON HIS HUNTER MENTALITY AND IS COMMITTED TO NOT ONLY MEETING BUT TO EXCEEDING SALES QUOTAS.”

“INSIDE SALES PROFESSIONAL WITH A WINNER MENTALITY WHO DOES WHAT IT TAKES TO GET THE JOB DONE. A PROVEN PRODUCER WITH A CAN-DO ATTITUDE WHO IS A WELCOME ADDITION TO ANY INSIDE SALES TEAM.”

“A PROVEN PRODUCER AND FAST ADOPTER OF NEW SALES SYSTEMS AND SELLING METHODOLOGIES, I AM COMMITTED TO PUTTING IN THE TIME AND EFFORT TO SUCCEED.”

You can use these types of descriptions in either your beginning summary or at the end of your work experience section. They also make great conclusions to the end of your resume. The point is – as I’m sure you are beginning to see – to make a strong impression with the hiring manager. The time you take to rewrite your resume in the ways you are learning here, and the time you take to adapt and customize your resume to the specific positon you are applying to, will give you an undisputed advantage over your “so-called” competition.

Number Five: Extra Credit. While avoiding the mistakes in the previous section, and combining the best practices above will help you create a killer resume, if you want to put the “frosting on the cake,” so to speak, then think about adding either a testimonial or any achievement awards – or both!

Testimonials: Include any testimonials from specific jobs at the end of your experience section with that job. Keep these short, and as a bonus ask your referrer to mention that you would be welcomed back for rehire. Here is an example:

“HIGH ENERGY PRODUCER AND AGGRESSIVE PROSPECTOR. FREQUENTLY LED THE TEAM IN BOTH PRODUCTION AND ATTITUDE. WOULD DEFINITELY BE OPEN FOR REHIRE IF APPLIED HERE AGAIN. Michelle Keller, V.P. of Sales Safeco INC.”

Awards for achievement or bonuses earned: Always keep a record of any awards or bonuses you receive. These could be certificates or names on a top producer plate in the office, or any trophies, or special mentions in emails or in the company newsletter. In addition, if you won any trips or were paid bonuses, either daily or weekly, make sure and mention these as well. The best place to mention these is at the end of your resume in the “Conclusion,” or “In Summary” section. An example might be:

“FREQUENT WINNER OF THE WEEKLY CASH BONUS (AWARDED EACH FRIDAY FOR TOP PRODUCER OF THE WEEK) AT SAFECO INTERNATIONAL, I WAS ALSO AWARDED A SPOT ON THE CLOSER OF THE MONTH TROPHY THREE OUT OF TWELVE MONTHS.”

Or

“WINNER OF THE 2015 PRESIDENT’S CLUB AND RECIPIENT OF THE ‘WEEKEND AWAY’ AWARD TRIP.”

Any and all of the special awards or acknowledgements you have previously received will help you to not only stand out, but they will paint the picture of you as being someone who has not only succeeded in the past, but will likely succeed at their company as well.

Conclusion

Most hiring managers are looking for your resume to assure them that you are more than likely to be a success. Because hiring a new employee is a time consuming and costly endeavor, they are looking for candidates that will be a “low risk” hire and hopefully as close to a “sure thing” as they can find. By taking the time to customize your resume to their specific job requirements, and then by creatively and enthusiastically selling yourself to them on how the skills and experience you have match up perfectly with what they are looking for you, you will convince them of this.

And by then listing your accomplishments, testimonials and awards, they will further feel not only comfortable with you, but even anxious to grab you off the market while you’re still available.

And that’s the kind of impact you want your resume to create, isn’t it?