Doctor or Salesperson – Which Would You Rather Be?

Saw these average salaries quoted in USA Today last week:

Physicians are the highest paid salaried employees in the U.S.: $187,876 a year.

Pharmacy managers are second at $149,064 per year.

Third are patent attorneys at $139,272.

Fourth are medical science liaisons at $132,842.

When I was growing up, my parents wanted me to be a doctor – or a lawyer. They argued that I’d make lots of money, have job security, and would have a highly respectable career.

When I was in college, I was working towards my doctorate in psychology. After I received my B.A., however, something happened – I took a summer job in sales. I intended to go back to school, because I thought “sales” was beneath me. I still wanted to be a doctor like my parents wanted me to be.

But something else happened that summer: I made almost $47,000 in commissions (it was a commission only position), and suddenly the thought of going back to school for six more years, incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, and then working 80 hours+ as an intern wasn’t so appealing.

In fact, as I looked around at the top sales reps in the company I worked for (a financial services firm with 25, full time, commission only sales reps), I saw that the top performers were driving Porsches, owned beautiful homes, and were already saving for retirement. And they were in their twenties….

And here’s another thing: most of them had never even been to college.

To be clear – at the time, I wasn’t a top producer, and like most of the other sales reps at the company I soon became stuck in just getting by. It was at this point that I had to make a decision:

I could put in three to six months of studiously learning and perfecting the craft of sales – and this included working harder than I ever had, rigorously follow my scripts (rewrite and personalize them when and where needed), record and listen to myself daily, and commit to doing everything I could, each day (weekends included!) to get better – or I could quit, apply for loans, and hope I got into graduate school.

One path would lead me to top production in sales where I could make literally hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, take vacations whenever and wherever I wanted, and give me complete job security (I could work for whomever I chose once I became a top producer), and the other path, well, consider:

If I chose to become a doctor, I would be looking at years of rigorous and demanding school work. More years as an intern and then resident (at a city that might need new doctors), and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, before I made a dime.

In addition, If I became a surgeon, I would work crazy hours most of my career, be on call at all hours of the night and weekends, be completely responsible to my patients and those working in my office, and I likely wouldn’t be getting my Porsche for many years.

For me, that choice was easy to make. I choose a career in sales. But not just an average career, I made a commitment to becoming a top selling professional.

And because I was willing to commit the time, energy, and money needed to excel, I became a top producer in that company in 90 days. Nine months later, I was the top rep out of five branch offices, and 16 months later I was promoted to sales manager.

And please don’t mistake this story as me trying to impress you. Instead, I’m trying to impress upon you that if I could do it, you can do it, too.

Sales have been a great choice, and I’m forever thankful I made it. But the decision that allowed me to be so successful was to commit to learning the craft of sales. It’s something I teach every week when training, and I write about it in my new book, “Power Phone Scripts.” It’s in the first chapter on the “Ten Characteristics of Top Sales Producers.”

If you have decided that you’re probably not going to become a doctor, but you’d like to live like one (with less stress, by the way), then make a commitment to your craft. Start by investing in my new book and then do what I recommend.

Believe me, if you do, this will become one of the wisest decision you’ve ever made.

Should You Use: “Is this a good time” – Yes or No?

The debate of whether to open your calls asking, “Did I catch you at a good time?” or “Is this time still good for you?” (for presentation call backs), is alive and well – unfortunately.

Just last week, I received this email question from a reader:

“Hi Mike, question – after I send out information to these guys and I come back to them with an idea do I ask them if they have a minute before going into my pitch?”

Have you ever wondered the same thing? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard this question for the last 30+ years, and I’ve also heard arguments for both sides. Some people think it’s respectful to ask if the prospect has time, and others feel they are setting themselves up for a stall.

So what should you do?

I’ve been making calls – both prospecting calls and closing calls – for a long, long time. In fact, I still make them today. And in my experience (note I said experience, not “theory”), the answer is clear. What you should do is this:

Never ask if it’s a good time to pitch or qualify or have a conversation with a prospect or client. Instead, follow this approach to the letter:

Always greet your prospect: “Hi {first name}, hope your day is going well….” (or other opening you like).

And then listen carefully not only to what they say, but, more importantly, to how they say it. Ask yourself:

“Is this person happy to hear from me?”

“Does this person sound rushed?”

“Do they sound upset that I’ve interrupted them?”

“Are they unhappy they picked up the phone now have to talk to me?”

Or,

“Do they sound relaxed?”

“Are they willing to engage – did they ask me how I’m doing?”

“Is there a smile in their voice?” (Or a frown?)

In other words, rather than ask if you caught them at a good time, listen to their voice and to how they answer the phone to see what their mood is. If you actually listen, you can always tell…

Then, regardless of what they say, acknowledge what you know to be true: they are busy! So let them know you respect their time and open your call this way:

“I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll be brief….”

And then engage quickly and, if you’re prospecting or qualifying, ask them a question as soon as possible so you can give them an opportunity to tell you whether they have the time to speak to you or not.

And that’s how you handle prospecting calls.

For pitches where you have an appointment, don’t ask if this is still a good time for them! You’ve made an appointment in advance, and if you’ve truly qualified them they are expecting your call and should be ready for it.

For these calls, you open this way:

“Hi {first name}, how’s your (Tuesday, etc.) going?”

[Listen here and respond accordingly.]

“Good to hear. Well, {first name}, I’m excited to speak with you today and I know you’re going to love…”

And then get into your pitch…

And, as always, don’t take my 30+ years of experience for it, try it yourself! Your own experience will verify what I’m telling you. Happy selling!

And if you’d like over 500 more phrases, questions, and word for word proven scripts (all current and effective), then invest $28 in your career and get my new bestselling book: Power Phone Scripts.

The Three Keys to Handling Objections

I hear a lot of sales reps’ recordings, and when it comes to dealing with objections, you’d be surprised by the mistakes I hear! One of the biggest mistakes I hear is reps not even hearing their prospects out, and instead rushing in to answer what turns out not to be the real objection. This leads to other mistakes such as talking past the close and actually introducing new objections!

Because some reps don’t get to the real objection, once they do give a rebuttal, the prospect then just comes out with another – and another – objection, and soon the sales rep is worn out and only too glad to schedule another call.

Here’s the good news: all this can be avoided if you follow the three keys to handling objections. Here’s what they are:

First, learn to listen.  Don’t be so quick to interrupt your prospect because often times the way to overcome their objection is actually in the objection itself. In other words, make your prospect fully explain themselves, and listen for the real objection or the way to handle what it is they are telling you.

My favorite technique is simply to listen to what they say – whatever it is – and then to respond with “Oh?”

That’s it. Practice saying it with a giant question in your voice, and then hit your mute button and let your prospect explain away their objection. It works better than you think and is fun to do!

Second, ask your prospect if there is anything else holding them back. Often times, the first objection you get is just a smokescreen, so get them to clarify what else might be standing in the way.

An easy way to do that is to simply ask, “And besides _________, what else would prevent you from (buying, investing, purchasing), putting us to work for you today?”

Listen very carefully to what the real objection(s) is.

Third, after your prospect has clarified their real objection and you fully understand what it is, you should always isolate it before answering it!  Again, you must be patient and give your prospect every opportunity to help you deal with their objection before you launch into an attempted rebuttal.

Let’s use “The Price is too high” objection since it’s the most common.  Most sales reps have been taught to build value to justify their price, or drop close to a lesser amount, or try to negotiate in some other way.  While these techniques are valuable tools, they should only be used after you isolate the objection.  Here’s how to do that:

“I understand __________, and let’s put the price aside for a moment and make sure this (product or service) is really what you’re looking for.  Let me ask you, if price weren’t an issue here, in other words, if this fit in with what you were willing to pay, would you go ahead and put me and my company to work for you?”

This one technique is the most powerful closing tool you’ll ever use in dealing with objections.  Sadly, it’s used less than 10% of the time, and that’s the reason I keep getting emails asking me what the best way of dealing with objections is.

My suggestion to you today is to incorporate these three keys and so see for yourself how much easier objection handling becomes for you.

And, if you’d like over 500 other proven scripts, questions, and conversation starters, then invest in a copy of my new book, Power Phone Scripts.

You’ll be a better closer as soon as you do!

Don’t Answer Objections, Isolate Them

Most sales reps hate getting objections. Their hearts sink into their stomachs, their palms start to sweat, and they start wondering how they’re going to pay the rent. Sound familiar?

When sales reps ask me how they should handle objections, they are often surprised by my answer. I tell them they shouldn’t answer them, they should isolate them. When they look confused, I explain:

“Let’s face it,” I tell them, “most of the time objections are just smokescreens hiding real objections that your prospect doesn’t want to disclose. As soon as you begin answering objections, have you ever found that they have another and yet another?”

“Oh, yeah,” they say.

“So here’s the secret to handling objections: instead of answering an objection, you must first isolate and question it,” I tell them.

To show you all what I mean, let’s take two of the most common ones – “Your price is too high,” and “I need to speak with, talk to my wife/partner/etc…”

If your client says, “Your price is too high,” before you try to overcome it, isolate it first. Try either:

“Okay, and besides price, what else would prevent you from going with me today?”

This is great in that it gets a prospect to reveal what is hiding behind the price objection. This also works:

“I can understand that, and let me ask you a question — if this price was exactly what you were willing to pay, is this (your product/service, etc.) the solution you would go with today?”

Now that you’ve isolated the objection you will see if price really is the only objection. Any answer other than ‘yes’ means price isn’t what is stopping your prospect form moving forward (which means you have more work to do to find out what is!)

Same thing with the “I’ve got to speak to, talk this over with….” objection. You should say:

“I can totally understand that. And _________ let me ask you — if you did speak with ________ and they said whatever you thought was fine with them, what would you tend to do next?”

Again, any answer other than “yes” means this objection is just a stall. Answering it will get you nowhere.

Do you understand now why I say, “Don’t answer an objection, isolate it?” Doing so will enable you to uncover what is really holding your prospect back.

And until you find that out, there will be no deal.

So stop answering objections and start isolating them. You will become a much stronger closer, and you’ll begin making more sales. Oh, and if they do say no, then you’ll find over 500 other scripts and ways of dealing with objections in my new book, Power Phone Scripts.

Get it today and start closing more sales tomorrow!

The 5 Secrets of Motivating Your Sales Team

Having trouble motivating your team? You’re not alone.

Every member of your team has different skill levels, interest levels, and different ways of learning. Because of this, not everyone will respond the same way to your methods of managing and motivating, and that means you need different ways of motivating, mentoring, counseling, or even some babysitting.  Sound familiar?

Let’s face it: true motivation comes from within. In some way, each member of your team is already motivated. The secret (or five secrets) is to build on each team member’s internal motivation and learn to maximize it.

Here are five things you can do today to get the most out of your team —

#1) Make your monthly revenue goal, and each rep’s part of that goal, crystal clear. I’m sure you have a monthly revenue goal, but does each member of your sales team know what their specific part of that goal is? (Hint — it’s not all equal). Recognize that some reps will produce much more of the overall goal than others, but also make sure each person is clear on what their part of that overall goal is. And then coach to that.

#2) Make bonuses or prizes specific to each team member. The problem with most bonus programs is that as soon as they are released, over half of the sales team knows they can’t win so they are more discouraged than encouraged to produce. Instead, spend some time learning what each person would really want, and then customize each rep’s bonus and tie it to their individual production goal.

If a rep hits their goal, then they win something that is meaningful to them. This also makes each rep responsible for hitting their own goal.

#3) Get out of your own comfort zone and close some deals. Most managers are way too busy in meetings, or reporting, or just plain hiding out to be really effective. Remember one thing — as the manager, you are the leader. And leaders lead by example.

Want to motivate your team, make your numbers, and create real value for yourself? Go onto the floor and close business for some of your sales reps and help them make their revenue goals. This is the most important thing you can do not only for your bottom line, but for your team’s motivation as well.

#4) Invest $100 in a couple of trophies. This will be the best money you’ll ever spend — make one a “Week’s most improved,” or “Best effort,” and hand it out each Monday morning.

Each winner gets to keep it on their desk that week. The other trophy can be either “Most deals,” or “Most new clients.” or whatever other category everyone has a chance to win (as long as it is revenue related). Again, hand it out in your Monday morning sales meeting and each week the winner gets to keep it on their desk.

Remember rule #1 in motivating: recognition among peers is almost always more important than money.

#5) Have some fun! Go to a toy store and buy one of those beanbag tosses, and after lunch on Friday make some teams and have some fun playing as a team. Tack on $50 for good measure and watch the competition and fun build your team and dissolve stress.  This works – try it!

So there you have it. Inexpensive, proven techniques to build morale, motivate and make more money.

Want a bonus? Invest in and give each member of your team a copy of my new book: Power Phone Scripts.” See it here. In it, they’ll find scripts, techniques, email templates, voice mail scripts, and so much more that they can use to help motivate themselves.

Invest in them to help them invest in themselves. Now there’s a proven way to motivate your sales team!

How to Increase Your Closing Percentage

Let me ask you a question: Do all of your leads end up buying?

Of course not.

Next question: Out of ten leads that you set up to pitch a demo to, how many of those ten end up buying?

If you said “two” then you are at the industry average. Now consider what that really means: It means that out of ten closes you attempt, eight are not going to buy!

Now think about all the time and energy you spend trying to close a lead that is never going to buy anyway. Think about all the time and effort you spend following up, chasing, sending emails and leaving voice mails. It’s no wonder most sales people go home exhausted at the end of the week and are discouraged when they come into work on Monday and look at their list of prospects to call back…

I used to be one of those discouraged sales reps until I learned about disqualifying prospects rather than qualifying them.

This was a crucial attitude shift that changed my career. Think about it: 80% of sales reps are desperate to “fill their pipelines,” and will send out just about anybody with the pulse just so they have someone to pitch later on. Companies and sales managers train them in this way (“It’s a numbers game,” they claim.), and then sales reps spend their time chasing unqualified leads, getting rejected, practicing poor sales skills, and becoming discouraged.

It’s sad, but that’s how 80% of your competition spend their sales careers. This leads to poor morale, upset managers, and a lot of turn over.

Top sales reps, however, would never think of sending out unqualified leads, and instead eliminate prospects who don’t fit their strict criteria of a buyer.  Top sales reps would rather disqualify a lead than put barely qualified leads into their pipeline just so they have someone to pitch.

And because of this, top sales reps send out (or set up) the fewest leads (appointments, demos, presentations, etc.) in the office. But the important thing is they have the highest closing rates and their paychecks tend to be higher.

So what does “disqualifying” prospects really mean? It means pausing and questioning the “red flags” they get, rather than ignoring them and hoping they go away. It means having and following a “qualifying checklist,” and asking the tough questions about budget, buying motives, competition, timelines, decision makers and decision processes.

When a top rep is done generating a lead, they can tell you why the prospect will buy, what potential objections may come up, and in many cases they’ve already asked trial closes and can tell you when the prospect will buy and what the process will entail.

If you’re sitting at your desk right now, staring at a list of prospects you have to call back, then you know the difference between just setting appointments to pitch and disqualifying out the non-buyers and setting up truly qualified leads and demos.

And now you have a choice to make. You can either keep creating and chasing unqualified leads, or you can step up to the plate and start asking the tough questions and truly disqualify out leads that are just going to waste your time and not buy at the end of your demo.

The sooner you do that, the sooner your closing percentage will go up, your energy level and attitude will go up, and your income will go up. And that pretty much describes top sales producers.

Sorry, Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

Practice doesn’t make perfect,

only practice of perfection makes perfect.

–Anonymous

This is one of my favorite sayings, and I love to use it during training or during a speaking event. I ask the audience how many people think that practice makes perfect, and you should see the hands shoot up! Everyone has heard this saying since they were kids, and most people believe it is true. And you should see the look on their faces when I tell them it’s not.

As they slowly put their hands down, I tell them that practice only makes permanent. If you practice something wrong – a golf swing, a sales rebuttal, etc. – you’re going to get really good at doing it wrong. In fact, it will be easy for you to be bad at something automatically, you won’t even have to think about it!

Unfortunately, whenever I go into a company and listen to their pitch, or the way they handle objections, or open their calls, I hear it. Many sales teams, and sales reps, are practicing poor selling techniques over and over again. And because they get into the same situations over and over again, they just keep saying and practicing the poor techniques.

And this is why they don’t see the consistent results they want. Think about it: If your prospect tells you at the end of your demo that they need to talk to their partner or spouse before they can make a decision, the right response isn’t, “Okay, when do you think I can call you back?” That is practicing a poor selling skill, and the result is a lot of calls backs and chasing unqualified leads.

The proper response – and the way to practice perfection in this instance – is to isolate this stall by saying, “I understand and you should speak with them. And if, after you do, they tell you to do what you think is best, then based on what we’ve just gone over, what would you tend to do?”

By isolating this stall – rather than buying into it – you’ll soon learn that any answer other than, “I’d do it,” means that asking their so-called partner or spouse isn’t the real objection. There is something else holding them back, and until you uncover and deal with that first, then you are just going to get stalled by this objection over and over again.

Practicing poor selling skills has another danger as well. It also ingrains poor techniques and turns them into habits. And habits are very hard to break. In fact, when teaching a team new and better selling techniques, one of the biggest challenges is getting them to first “un-learn” their old, ineffective habits. While they may do well in the first week or two with the new approach I teach, soon, if they’re not diligent, they can drift back to their old habits and poor skills.

That’s why constant, ongoing work and commitment is required in the first 90 days to make sure they learn and adopt the new habit of a best practice technique.

The good news is that by concentrating on practicing perfection, you’ll not only get better results – and what better reinforcement is there? – but you’ll also develop better habits. Soon, if you really stay focused and keep practicing your new techniques, it will be easy for you to succeed in the selling situations and objections you get into over and over again. And then soon, it will be like you to do things well and become a top producer.

And that’s when selling become easy, and your career becomes much more rewarding.

Dealing Successfully With Gatekeepers

Every month, I get emails from my readers asking me how to deal with gatekeepers. They tell me the most frustrating part of prospecting is actually getting through to the decision maker. They get interrogating questions like:

“Will he know what this call is about?”

And

“Is she expecting your call?”

And

“Have you spoken to him before?”

These and other objections frustrate sales reps to the point of them developing some serious call reluctance. I’m sure you know what I mean…

Don’t you wish that you, and your team, had a proven approach that actually works?

There is, and here are the basics of it:

  1. First of all, be super polite to the receptionist as she gets sales calls every day! Believe me, a receptionist knows a sales rep almost the moment they open their mouth. And one of the surest “tells” is that most sales reps are demanding and borderline rude. So the first thing to do is to be polite. Use “please” and “thank you” a lot, and treat the receptionist like a person – not an obstacle to be overcome.
  2. Don’t pitch the gatekeeper! This is fundamental error number one, and too many sales reps are still making it. To start with, the receptionist doesn’t care what you are selling or how good it is. Instead, her/his job is to get you to the right person. Recognize that and get good at it.
  3. Give an instructional statement. Receptionists take a lot of direction and are most comfortable when they don’t have to make decisions about calls. Instead, they are there to route them. Learn how, and you’ll get a lot further.
  4. Be prepared for push back with a good script. Because you already know what’s coming, why not be prepared to deal with it successfully? Having a proven script for this part of your call (every part, actually!) is the make or break of being successful with it.

So here is the script you need that incorporates all of the above. Don’t take my word for it, rather, use it and see for yourself how much more successful you’ll be:

“Hi may I speak with {first name of prospect} please?

Receptionist: “May I tell him/her who is calling?”

“Yes please. Please tell him/her that ________ ________ is holding please.”

If you use this just as it is (using “please” three times), you will be put through an astounding 60%+ of the time without any additional screening!

Don’t believe me? Good. Try it for yourself and see.

And for the other 40% of the time when you are asked, “What’s this call regarding?” or, “Have you spoken to him/her before?” or even if you don’t have the prospect’s name, you can find these and other answers in my new book, Power Phone Scripts.

See it here.

Stop struggling and start closing more sales!

First We Form Habits, Then They Form Us

“First we form habits, 

then they form us.”

–Bob Moawad, Edge Learning Institute

I just worked with a great inside sales team in Louisville, KY (hi Kathy, Darryl and the team!), and this week they begin working with a new, best practice approach that is going to make them much more successful. I’m excited for them! At the close of each day of training, I told them that the biggest challenge isn’t going to be learning the new scripted approach (although that will definitely take some effort), but rather it will be in unlearning their old habits.

Now don’t get me wrong, habits are a good thing and without them we couldn’t get much done. In fact, the great thing about forming a habit is that once you do, you can rely on it almost unconsciously and so devote your time and energy to other things. Just think about driving your car. Once you learn how, you no longer have to take the time to learn how to pull out into traffic, change lanes, or learn how to parallel park. You just get in and your habit of driving takes over!

When you come to think about it, our lives are made up of a series of habits: habits of eating and exercise, of communicating with other people, family members, etc., and hundreds of other routines of living (think about brushing your teeth – do you floss?). Just imagine how much more difficult life would be if you had to learn all these things over every day!

So habits are a wonderful thing – if they are good ones. Unfortunately, we also can develop bad habits. Once, when I was working onsite for a few months many years ago, I got in the habit of visiting the food truck at the 10:00 A.M. break. They had the most delicious French Fries with a tangy salt, and I developed the habit of having them every day. Well, after three months I had put on almost five pounds.

That’s when I remembered today’s quote. What I found was that the French Fries habit I had formed was suddenly forming me! And when you think about it, all habits work the same way. And this is especially true in sales. If we develop poor prospecting habits, then we create unqualified prospects and appointments. This leads to a low closing percentage. If we develop an aversion to asking for the order, then we tend to create a lot of call backs.

Because many sales teams have developed bad selling habits, the first thing they need to do is unlearn the bad habits before they can learn newer, better ones. Here are three tips for doing just that:

  • The first thing you want to do is make sure it is easy for you to adopt the new habit of a better approach. In the case of learning a new scripted sales approach, I always like to use the Adele example. How many of you know the words to the song, “Hello”? Lots of you, right? That’s because you’ve heard it a hundred times!

The best way to learn a new script is to record yourself practicing it into a recording device (all smart phones have one), and then commit to listening to your recording 30 to 40 times. If you do that, then using them will become an easier habit for you.

  • Record yourself. Because habits are mostly unconscious, we often don’t even know when we’re using them! By recording yourself, and then listening to your recordings daily, you will become aware of what you’re saying, and you’ll have the ability to change that.
  • Reward yourself when you use the new scripted approach. When you catch yourself using the new scripts, give yourself some positive reinforcement. Hit a “That was easy” Staples button (get one for your desk), or use positive affirmations to support yourself. I used to say to myself, “See, I knew I could do it. And watch this, I’m going to do it again!”

Just know that the good news is that once you displace an old habit with a more effective one, the new one will take on a life of its own as well. That’s why top sales producers remain top sales producers regardless of what company they work for or what product or service they are selling.

So commit to learning a better practice approach in your sales environment, and then commit to developing it into a habit. When you do, you’ll find that your new habit will soon be forming a more successful and productive you!

Current Prospecting Tips that Work

Do you hate prospecting by phone? “Who doesn’t?” is probably your answer. And who can blame you. First you have to deal with gatekeepers, receptionists, office managers, etc.

Then, if you do finally get through to someone, you get blow offs, resistance, and the old, “Just email me something, and I’ll look at it.” Yeah, right.

Imagine if I told you many of the ways you’re approaching your prospects are actually causing the objections you’re getting? Some of the wrong things to say are:

“Did I reach you at a good time?”

And

“I’m just calling to learn a little more about your company…”

Many sales reps think they are being polite when they use these kinds of openings, but in reality they’re just making it easy for prospects to blow them off.

Wouldn’t you like to know:

  • Better ways of opening your conversations?
  • Proven ways to deal with gatekeepers?
  • Word for word scripts to deal with common blow offs like “Just email me something?”

If you’ve read this far, then you’re in luck. By clicking the link below, you’ll get access to a 34 page sample of my new book, “Power Phone Scripts: 500 Questions, Phrases, and Word-For-Word Scripts to Help You Open and Close More Sales.”

And in this sample, you’ll get all the scripts and techniques to help you deal with the situations above. All for free.

Get your sample here.

And if you like what you read, why not get a copy of this powerful handbook for all your team members and yourself. Keep it near the phone to instantly improve your effectiveness on the phones. Increase your sales and build your confidence. All for $28!

Also, if you’d like a limited edition signed copy of the book, use this link to order.

Either way, invest in yourself, in your team and company, and start winning more sales, more easily.

Get yours today!