Category Archives: selling skills

What’s Next?

Continuing with our theme of, “Making Things Happen,” most people agree effective communication is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to complete tasks.

While there are obviously many facets of communication, there is one simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will improve your business communication and success level significantly  – and help you to “make things happen” in the process.

When asked to identify this habit, most people think it involves the conveyance of one’s message – either a smooth or powerful delivery, or a pleasant voice tone. Others suggest that the best communicators are good listeners and, as noted in our previous post, the art of asking good questions is critical.

But while these are all very important elements of good communication, none of them represent the habit to which we refer today. The critical skill we have in mind today is the one that truly helps you make things happen. It is the habit that brings about action! And, as promised, it is simple…

Simple But Not Easy
It is the practice of specifically identifying and scheduling the next steps that are consequential to your communication – consequential to your discussions, your meetings, your teleconferences, your interviews, your sales calls, and so on.

If this seems too simplistic, please think again. Consider the fact that all business communication, regardless of its form, must be purposeful. We conduct meetings to share information on which people must act. We make sales calls so that people will buy. We run training sessions to help people perform better. We go on interviews with hopes of being hired; we conduct interviews with hopes of hiring. Each form of business communication has a purpose, and that purpose involves action.

So, for example, at the end of each sales call, what can we do to make something happen? What can we say at the end of each staff meeting to make sure everyone is on-board with the conclusions drawn and that each participant is clear on his or her role in implementing agreed-upon solutions or processes? After meeting a new prospect at a networking event, is there a way to end our conversation that will result in a meaningful future discussion about a business relationship?

The answers to all of these questions may vary in content, but in principle they’re all the same – we must identify and then arrange the next steps, and we must do so definitively.

For instance, after meeting a good prospect at a trade show, it is far better to arrange a specific follow-up plan such as, “I’ll call you Monday at 3pm,” rather than a vague plan such as, “I’ll call you next week!”

“It has been nice meeting with you today, Ms. Buyer. Based on the information you’ve shared, I’ll put together a formal proposal for outfitting your facility with widgets. Can we schedule a brief meeting to review the proposal’s details? How about next Wednesday or Thursday…?”

“OK sales team, our goals for the upcoming week are clear. Along with our regular sales calls, each of us will make twenty-five additional courtesy calls to current customers because we’ve all agreed that retention levels must be improved. These calls will be documented in the newly-created section of our CRM program, and we’ll get together on Wednesday at 4pm to discuss progress – any questions?”

Making Things Happen – Part 2: Need Assessment

Add a post!

As noted in last week’s post, the ability to make things happen  that is, get others to accept our ideas, suggestions or proposals; or, more simply stated, the ability to close the sale  is a talent many people say they would truly like to master.

In his book The Anatomy of Persuasion, author Norbert Aubuchon writes about the importance of persuasion (i.e., closing the sale) and communication skills in today’s business world, and goes on to suggest that improvements in these areas could have a significant and positive effect on innovation.

Based on a recent article posted on 24/, it would seem Mr. Aubuchon is right on the money!

However, Aubuchon also points out that if “would-be-persuaders” are not able to properly identify the needs of their audiences, then they are better-off postponing their efforts to “close the sale” because, without proper need assessment, they will most likely fail.

Of course understanding the needs, interests and priorities of others  whether they be customers, prospects, colleagues or managers  requires effort and skill. Probing skills are at the root of success, as asking the best questions will usually enable us to uncover or discover the best information. Second comes the ability to listen… this is difficult for many of us. Listening involves focus, practice and interest;  other  pre-requisites are also involved, the first of which is to stop talking. This too is difficult for many of us…

But if we can control the urge to present our great idea, proposal or suggestion too soon…, and instead wait until we have properly assessed our audience’s interests, needs and priorities, then we stand a much better chance of success for one simple reason  we will be able to position our presentation in a way that meshes with the audience’s needs.

It’s that simple…

There is a story about baseball great Ted Williams, who most people rank among the best hitters to have ever played the game. In the story, a newspaper reporter said to Ted, “Gee Mr. Williams, you’re the best hitter in baseball… the best ever… you must be a great student of batting.”

To which Williams replied, “No, son. I’m a great student of pitching!”

Making Things Happen!

Colleague and friend Howard Wight says, “There are three kinds of people in this world… those who make things happen, those who wait for things to happen and those who don’t even know anything is happening!”

All kidding aside, the ability to “make things happen” is a true asset that few people have truly mastered. We’ve learned that there are three key elements to achieving this mastery:

  1. Planning your approach based on an understanding of your audience (customer!) and their needs
  2. Developing a proactive style of thought and communication
  3. Diligent, persistent follow-up

What’s worked for you?

Bridging the Communication Gap

Miscommunication can be a costly occurrence.

Defined simply by Merriam Webster as failure to communicate clearly, the causes of miscommunication can vary significantly – lack of forethought or preparation, poor verbal skills or intentional deceit on the part of the sender; lack of comprehension, poor listening skills or distraction on the part of the receiver.

In a 2005 article, author and conflict resolution expert Tristan Loo suggests that miscommunication is also the primary contributing factor to conflict.

“Miscommunication opens up the triangle of other factors that inevitably leads to conflict,” he says.

He goes on to explain that people tend to fear the worst outcome. In miscommunication the mind will fill in missing information with its own creative insight, which is often fear-based. Our minds naturally seek logical explanations to events as well. Absent those explanations, our minds frequently switch to a fear-based mode in which we satisfy our need for answers with that of assumption. Once we lock-into our assumptions the tendency is to believe them as truth, thus resulting in conflict.

The Solution – Trial Closing
In the selling world, a great deal is lost to misunderstanding and conflict. Buyers tend to buy from people they like and trust – but miscommunication, as noted above, breeds uncertainty, conflict and distrust.

To bridge the gap, Loo suggests people adopt an open mind with respect to alternative possibilities. To facilitate this, increased use of clarifying questions by all parties during need assessments, business meetings, conversations and presentations is the key.

Since it is an accepted principle that the primary sender of communication must take the responsibility for the quality of the communication, then the person who is selling, promoting or persuading should be the one to initiate these clarifying questions which, when properly used, will confirm both understanding and receptivity.

Closing vs. Trial Closing

Closing the sale is a skill we’re asked about frequently – and one surrounded by a great deal of mystery.  One area of confusion that can, when demystified, result in a healthy increase in closing rates, is the difference between “closing” and “trial closing.”

Closing is the act of seeking a decision, usually through the use of a direct question.
“Can we move forward?”
“Would you like to place an order today?”
Trial closing, on the other hand, is not about directly seeking a decision, but is a method of seeking an opinion – in other words, a way of testing receptivity.
“Does that sound good to you?”
“What do you think so far?”
Trial closing is an extremely important (and often omitted) component of the selling process, because it gives the seller some insight into the relative interest level of the prospective buyer before closing questions are asked. 
When a seller receives positive, enthusiastic responses to trial closing questions, then he or she knows the buyer sees value in their offer or proposal and will be inclined to move forward with the sale.
Conversely, if trial closing questions are answered negatively or with little or no enthusiasm, then the prudent seller knows that something has gone off-track; needs were not properly assessed, some form of miscommunication has taken place, etc.
In this latter instance, the best track is to go back to assessing and clarifying needs, interests and priorities, and then testing the waters again with additional trial closing questions.
It’s important to realize that the selling process is seldom thrown completely off-track when trial closing questions yield negative responses. In fact, the negative responses give the seller an opportunity to correct errors that were obviously made during earlier steps, and increases closing rates in the end.

What do you think…?

Closing the Sale

What happens when a sales person fails to “ask for the order” or at least include some type of call to action in the selling process?

We have asked many people this question over the years, and the answers tend to be very similar – the customer or prospect is likely to think:

  1. The sales person doesn’t really want the business

  2. The sales person is not confident

  3. The sales person’s organization can not provide a good solution

More importantly, regardless of how people have answered the question, all of the answers we received were involved a negative impression of the sales person…

What do you think?