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Book Review: The Challenger Sale

July 30th, 2014

The Challenger Sale, Dixon and Adamson.2011. Penguin.

The Challenger Sale evokes reactions and disturbs conventional thinking. The authors want to encourage organizations, groups and sales people to “push the customer’s thinking and teach them something new” p 21. It is not surprising then that the reader is given a challenge to think about sales in different ways. Even the introduction by Neil Rackham stirs up controversy:

“How you sell has become more important than what you sell. An effective sales force is a more sustainable competitive advantage than a great product stream.” p XVI

Many believe that you are only as good as the product you sell (this was the first thing anyone ever said to me about sales). In social media discussions, my research found that many analysts, leaders and sales managers disagree with The Challenger Sale. However, I believe that is exactly what the authors want. By disturbing conventional thought, readers will think “I never thought of it that way’ or “I wonder if that is true?” This pattern of disturbance is a theme in the book leading the reader to question traditional views. For example, the authors defy the notion that sales is all about relationships. This one point has been the subject of multiple discussions with thought leaders, educators and fellow sales professionals. This makes The Challenger Sale valuable to me and worth the price of the book.

You will also find skills and perspective. Three behaviors that sales people can integrate into their profession are Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control. p33 There are many positive aspects to these actions. Teaching helps customers learn, think and feel in new ways. Personally, I have an educational style and totally agree with this approach to selling. Tailoring is adjusting the message to the audience (visit http://youtu.be/31jZ1vaJlsg or search “The Persuasion Equation” on YouTube for tip). My favorite phrase from this book is “solution selling is customization in the moment” page 78. Taking control (another deliciously disturbing idea) is to push sales people to maintain momentum across the entire sales process. I believe the use of questions creates momentum in all phases of the sales process (search “The Art of the Q: Build Your Business with Questions” by Charlie Van Hecke on Google, Amazon.com, i-tunes or B&N.com for more information).

The best way to summarize is to confess that I have bought two copies of The Sales Challenger and one copy of The IT Sales Challenger (by Neil MacArthur which applies concepts to my industry). It makes me slightly upset, causes a rethinking of long held views and well, challenges me! In future reviews, we will visit the IT Sales Challenger and dig deeper into the question: ” What can leaders who seek sales excellence learn from The Sales Challenger?

 

Why Ask Questions?

June 2nd, 2014
The ability to ask questions and to qualify are two core competencies in sales. In Dan Pink’s Book ‘To Sell is Human” he states:

“In the New World of Sales, being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than producing the right answers.” Pink. To Sell is Human. Riverhead. 2012 p 147

Whether you target businesses or consumers in your industry, you need questioning abilities to connect and to engage your customers. I agree with Dan Pink when he says “we are all in sales”.

On this site, you will find references to a new book “The Art of the Q.” I wrote this because I passionately believe that questions and qualification (a sequence of questions) will help you to save time.  Further, my experience is that people who ask the right questions make more money! Why?

Questions help you understand the needs and wants of your customers.

Questions help you counsel buyers to identify and to remove obstacles that stand in the way of your success.

The difference between “The Art of the Q” and other books is that it is based on 17 actual case studies with real life examples. You get actual questions stripped from high performing sales people that you can immediately use in your day to day business life. If you want to download “The Art of the Q”, it is available in e-book (Amazon.com | Barnes and Noble). A print version is coming soon.

You probably use questions now. My hope is that you have the desire to hone these skills to become an expert in communications. I hope you will also share YOUR questions (and answers) with me at facebook/salestrainer4U!

Thank you,

Charlie Van Hecke

 

Sales Enablement: Product Launch Collateral

March 1st, 2014

Sales Enablement is leadership strategy to equip and empower revenue generating employees to perform at the highest levels. This brief article provides Product Launch collateral as an example.

Sales and marketing often operate independently. Sales Enablement is an idea to bridge that gap. Product Launches overlap the two functions so this common element is a great place to start. Providing sales people with collateral that supports getting a new product to the market just makes sense.

Product Launch Collateral:

Product Guides

Presentations and Scripts

Demonstration Tools

Industry Information

Competitive Intelligence

Kicking these off with webinars and providing online access helps your sales force with education and tools. If you would like a white paper on the 3 D’s of Product Launch Sales Force Enablement, just email me at charlievanhecke@gmail.com

Managing The Opportunity Pipeline

November 5th, 2013

Every organization should have someone in the Sales Management Role. A very
important program will focus on the needs of Sales Management with programs
that will encourage sales activity, proposal generation and forecasting! The
more customers you can find and submit proposals to – the more money comes into the organization! Click on “Get Pipeline Up” link below for free video tip!

Get Pipeline Up!

Lower Costs and Get Sales Up!

If you are a small to medium size company,
you may want to first hire an inside sales person and then move them into
outside sales. Keep your costs of sales low while building a pipeline of new
business (proposals, estimates) opportunities. As cash flow improves, you can hire a replacement for inside sales and personally tackle the role of sales manager. If you are a medium-to-larger size company, you will want Sales Managers to improve because they directly impact cost control and revenue generation.

Growth should be managed so it does not strain your organizations ability to deliver on expectations!

Free Sales Tip ! The Persuasion Equation

October 20th, 2013

In this video (click on The Persuasion Equation Charlie shows you a faster way to get your point across with….

  1. Stimulators
  2. Motivators
  3. Responders

Have you ever wondered if there is a better way to grab attention and to motivate a busy buyer to meet with you? If so, then watch this video to see an example of how to communicate in a more effective manner.

The Persuasion Equation

You may also want to visit the website www.target10towin.com to learn about a 30 Day Challenge to help you save time (uses one hour a day) and make more money (increase your commissions)!

 

The VORTEX

June 30th, 2013
Sales Metaphor for Buyers who are  M.I.A.

"Have Your Buyers Disappeared?"

Have you ever had a customer stop returning your calls? No e-mails, texts or communication of any kind? When this happens, do not despair. Your buyer is simply in a temporary hold pattern known as the “VORTEX.” They will re-appear when they are ready.  This metaphor is comparing the missing pieces of our pipeline to metaphysical space whirlpools made up of gas. For literal folks, here is a real vortex definition:

vortex [ˈvɔːtɛks][1]

1. a whirling mass or rotary motion in a liquid, gas, flame, etc., such as the spiraling movement of water around a whirlpool

2. situation regarded as irresistibly engulfing  [from Latin: a whirlpool]

Have buyers really become swept away? No, they will re-emerge, but the real question is:

  • “Why did they go away?”

One of the most common sales errors is the lack of follow-up.  If a customer asks a question, this is the chance to research the answer. Examples of follow-up include:

  1. Phone calls
  2. E-mail with References
  3. Hand Delivered Proposals
  4. Thank You Notes
  5. Webinars

Solutions to The Vortex

Follow-up builds professional credibility because the customer feels that you care enough to get the questions answered. Phone calls and emails are fine,

but getting back face-to-face with the buyer is optimal. If you cannot go directly to see your customer, at least invite them to a webinar (see gotomeeting.com).

If your buyers have become engulfed in a Vortex, you may also want to check with your networking group. Bring up this account at your next meeting or call someone in your industry:

  • “Has anyone one else heard any news about this account or buyer?”

Have you tried connecting on Social Media? One of my buyers was considering a proposal. In the interim between submitting my proposal and acceptance, I visit her Facebook (business) page and check “Like.” On the next phone call, my buyer thanked me for liking the Facebook page! We talked a little about some of the pictures and positive customer reactions related to her Facebook page.

Sales often stall because we lack the inertia of follow-up. Reverse the whirlpool known as the Vortex with constant activity. Network extensively and seek information. There may be a very logical explanation for this mysterious disappearance. Try connecting on Social Media. Put a reminder in your calendar to keep touching base with your buyer until you either make the sale or remove them from your list of qualified buyers. Be persistent and you can overcome the Sales Vortex!


Wows, Webinars and Whoops!

June 1st, 2013

Who loves to get a WOW!?  All sales people love to get a WOW! Sometimes, in our zest, we become too feature-function-gadget driven and forget about involving our buyers. Yes, we get a WOW, but we might also overwhelm our audience.  At least when we are face-to-face with our customers, we can see their reactions!

Selling Challenge:

  • If we host a web meeting or webinar, we cannot see their faces.

On a recent Webinar, this happened to me.  My blue tooth headset was charged, the 4G internet connection has 4 bars and like magic, I am presenting my solution to a
buyer hundreds of miles away. It was a competitive situation, so I wanted to show as many capabilities and exclusives as possible.  In the online meeting, the buyer did say WOW
a number of times.

Later that week, a fellow sales person called to discuss this particular buyer. Because he is selling a non-competitive product, we network, share sales tips and try to help each other succeed. He told me that a mutual customer shared that she was overwhelmed by my products and services.  Yes, this is the same buyer that participated in the Webinar. In the demonstration, too many applications came at the buyer in too short of time.

  • Yes, I got WOWS – but at what cost? Whoops! I had made a basic selling mistake.

My friend provides vital feedback to me that webinars are a great time saver but are very dangerous because you cannot judge the buyer’s reaction. His advice was to slow down and ask questions like:

  • “How do you see that working for you?”

The risk of having experience is that we become very confident. That confidence can often lead to mistakes and we can spiral into a negative sales cycle.  My friend shares his  feedback and helps me avoid losing an account. I call the buyer immediately and set up a follow up call. This time, the pace of the call was slower. The review of capabilities became interactive and customer focused. There were questions like:

  • “Where will this help you?”
  • “Why?”

This WOW junkie had to tame the urge to show too many features. The enthusiasm is there, but tempered. Now when I get on Webinars, I avoid the trap of talking too much. Questions help slow the pace and get the buyer involved. It takes focus, concentration, questions and listening.  These are some of the fundamental skills of selling. Just because we have new technology does not mean we stop practicing the fundamentals. If we forget this lesson, the result is WHOOPS! Mistakes can cost us customers, commissions and even,careers. This career sales person just got a lesson he will not forget.

If you have a tip, please post a response. If you have a question, please post that or visit facebook/salestrainer4U for a steady stream of tips and relevant sales education.

“X” is for eXisting Concern

May 4th, 2013

The entire point of consultative selling is the find out the needs, wants and concerns of the buyer. By asking questions and listening, you should get a short list of issues to address in your product or service presentation. On your tablet or notepad, you can write a letter ‘X” and then address each concern directly with a feature, advantage and benefit.

Then, ask a checking question.

This confirms that the issue has been solved in the mind of the buyer. Simple? It is if you know the right questions to ask. If you want to know more about sales questions, visit facebook/salestrainer4U. Let’s visit a Case Study and then learn a method.

Case Study:

Let’s imagine that you are selling online advertising. You have asked great questions and found out that the buyer wants to reach a certain type of buyer in a limited geographic area.  There is a budget, but the business owner is old school and very skeptical about new media. Here is a sample XFAB:

Feature:

“We can offer you a Targeted Package in the geography you want”

Advantage:

“This will give your business a combination of powerful online promotional tools”

Benefit:

“This is a greater value for you because it reaches a niche audience”

Now Check with your buyer:

“Does that address your concerns about a test package that can reach your audience in the towns  that you want to target?”

If you know the issue and can help, then use XFAB Check method:

eXisting Concern:

Hidden needs, wants, concerns, issues of your customer

Feature…

The capability of your product or service

Advantage

What the feature does to fix the situation

Benefit…

What it ultimately means to customer

Check

Confirmation Question

Using the XFAB Check method will keep your presentations organized and relevant.  Remember to ask questions, listen and take notes.

Tailor your solution to your buyer’s needs and sales will go up! Visit me on Google+ or Facebook… I want to hear how you used this to help your buyers!

Y is for YES

April 6th, 2013

‘Yes’ is the word forsales people, business owners, job seekers and anyone that is in sales. For sales people, agreement is the key to earnings. For business owners, YES means
that your customer has said they trust you to perform services or to deliver the
products. For a job seeker, the job offer is validation of worth and hope for a
better tomorrow.

Oh, you don’t think that you are in sales? We are all selling something!

  • When you ask someone to marry you, are you hoping for a yes? If not, why bother?
  • When you apply to a college, is not acceptance the goal?
  • When you are on a job interview, are you selling yourself?

Yes, Yes, Yes. It is a wonderful word and it comes in many forms. You have to expect
a yes to listen for it. Expectancy is the positive thinking part of selling. Then, when you hear a positive buying signal, you are conditioned to hear a ‘Yes.’ Here are some ‘Yes’ phrases that you may hear:

  • “We are thinking about January for installation”
  • “When we build our home, we are going to install carpet from your company”
  • “When we hire you, there will be training”

These are examples of verbal buying signals. A verbal buying signal is an implied yes and a sign that agreement is at hand. This is when you hear good business people say:

  • “Then we better get the paperwork approved”
  • “Great, let’s get the order filled out”
  • “When do I start?”

Think positive, expect a yes and then listen for it. Be ready to accept a little adversity and a few obstacles. But when a Yes comes along, smile and role with it!

Do you really think that your products and services are a nice fit for the
customer? Do you believe in your carpet line and know that it is perfect for
the new homeowners? Will you be a good employee? Yes, Yes, Yes.

What a wonderful word YES is to hear! Listen for it! Expect it! Now go get ‘em Tiger!

 

Are you ZENACIOUS?

March 4th, 2013

You may have heard of Zen and I bet you have heard of
tenacity, but have you heard about ZENACITY?

It is an awareness of the customer that surpasses normal
thoughts and feelings; a sixth sense. It is a perceptual field that triggers a
compulsion to go above and beyond; to excel. Tenacity without empathy is like peanut butter without jelly.  The peanut butter is good for you! We know it
is protein and it does taste good with a banana (try it!).

Zenacity is the process of merging empathy with tenacity that multiplies
inner awareness with outward energy.

Zenacity is the use of all senses to get the mind and body
focused on needs fulfillment.

Are you observing? Do you watch not just for
buying signals but for confusion?

Have you detected clues that others miss or
conducted deep research that gives you the competitive edge?

Are you listening?

Does your focus and concentration kick in when
others speak?

Do your questions and needs analysis uncover the causes behind
the issues?

Can you listen emotionally?

Are you mature and sensitive enough to pick up
on values, passion and topics that are charged with feeling?

Do you follow up? From probing with fervor to e-mailing
after a sales call, do you really believe in your dream of success? Do you stay
with the customer through all of their doubt and fickleness? Or, are you like
the majority that give up, go home and fade away?

Sometimes people buy because a product fills a need. Maybe
they buy because the price fits the budget or someone they knew was very
pleased with a company or service.
People most often buy from someone they like!

Buyers like sales people that understand their needs and who are reliable both before and AFTER the
sale.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. For them, the sale begins when they start using your product or service. The goal is complete satisfaction.

Zenacity means that it is your mission to develop heightened awareness and drive so that you facilitate customer satisfaction.

Are you ZENACIOUS?

 

 
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What’s Going On
Charlottesville Interview

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