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What are your customers really buying?

November 28, 2013 by Andy Bounds

What are your customers really buying?/buy on keyboard{{}}When I’m in London, I travel between meetings on the back of a motorbike taxi. I use them because the journey times are quicker and more predictable than my other options. I don’t choose them because “it’s a motorbike”.

Also, my company chose our IT service providers because they could free up our time; not because “we do IT”.

And we selected our accountant because he could help us grow our business; not because “he is an accountant”.

You see, when we buy things, we aren’t interested in the things. Instead, we’re interested in what they give us. Or, as I call it, the afters — why we’re better-off after buying.

Weirdly, we often don’t realise we want these afters. For example, I imagine you recently bought a newspaper, thinking you wanted a newspaper. You didn’t. You wanted the news. Glasses? Better sight. Toothpaste? Clean teeth.

Smart companies use afters to persuade us to buy. For instance, Kodak doesn’t sell by discussing their photographs; they talk about preserving our memories. Disney doesn’t sell by focusing on their cartoons. They talk about making our dreams come true.

So when you want people to buy-in to your messages, what do you focus on? Your ideas? Initiatives? Proposals? Research? Yourself?

Or, do you focus on why others will be better off afterwards? The time you save them. Or the costs. Or the hassle. The fact you reduce their stress, grow their business, help them look good to their boss… Now, those are great reasons to buy-in.

So, engage others instantly by beginning with their afters. This can be hard to do — after all, you are passionate about what you do. But I would never have chosen a motorbike taxi if some motorbike enthusiasts had spent ages telling me about their motorbikes.

People will never buy into your content unless their afters are crystal clear. So next time you’re looking for quick buy-in, start by explaining why the other person will be better off afterwards.

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

You can read more about Andy’s approach to sales here: No more fears — selling made easy

Posted in Sales | Tagged selling, sell, sales | 0 comments

Five reasons why you struggle with negotiation - and what to do about it

October 28, 2013 by Andy Preston

Five reasons why you struggle with negotiation - and what to do about it/two business shadow shaped like fighting{{}}As an ex-professional buyer, negotiation is always a fascinating topic for me. Whenever I’m working with salespeople or business owners, they often fail to get the price for their products or services that they wanted — and often get even less than they deserve.

And the pressure is even greater in today’s market conditions — where savvy buyers are looking to get the best value when they’re purchasing. Therefore to get good results, the salesperson or business owner has to be able to stand their ground in a negotiation in order to get the price they deserve. Sadly, this often doesn’t happen.

So why is it that the buyer often has the upper hand when it comes to negotiation?

Reason one: They’re better prepared to negotiate

One simple reason is that the buyer is often better prepared to negotiate than the salesperson is. Often a salesperson gets caught up in a negotiation when they aren’t ready for it.

So if you think that a meeting or phone call could result in a negotiation, make sure you prepare for it beforehand. If a negotiation starts before you’re ready, don’t be afraid to postpone it and re-schedule it for another time when you’ve had chance to prepare.

Reason two: You’re too desperate

Another typical reason that salespeople struggle to get better results from their negotiation is that on most occasions, they’re so desperate to win the deal that this comes across to clients, and they use that as leverage to swing the negotiation in their favour.

Prospects and clients can smell desperation and it certainly isn’t attractive. Once a client knows the salesperson is more desperate to do the deal than they are, that just gives them the green light to get the best deal they can.

It’s about time that we realised that prospects and clients often want to do the deal as much (or sometimes even more) than we do — but often we don’t know it.

Reason three: You fail to spot their tricks

Any buyer or decision maker worth their salt will attempt to play tricks during a negotiation. If you can spot these and deal with them, then you’re usually fine. However, most salespeople aren’t even aware what the other party is doing and end up falling for them.

You need to learn how buyers and decision makers operate so that you can deal with their tricks and handle their objections.

Reason four: You don’t know enough about the other party

Another reason salespeople often come off worst in a negotiation is that they fail to find out enough about the other party before the negotiation starts. The decision-maker may well have strong reasons to purchase now. Very often there are pressing issues that mean they want a quick deal. But if the salesperson doesn’t know this, then they lose the advantage.

Reason five: They have more skills than you

Think for a moment: When was the last time you went (or sent a member of your team) on a professional negotiation skills course, lasting for, say, one to three days? Possibly never.

Think about the other side: If they’re a professional buyer, you can guarantee that they will have been on such a course. If they’re a key decision-maker in a business, they’re also likely to have been on a similar course. At the very least, they’re far more experienced at negotiation than you!

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at

How to sell more in a tough market

September 11, 2013 by Andy Preston

How to sell more in a tough market/stormy weather ahead{{}}If you listen to the news, or anyone commenting on it, they’ll tell you that we are “officially” out of recession.

However, it might not feel like that at the coalface. Even though we may be officially out of recession, many businesses are still experiencing recessionary conditions and that means they’re selling in a tough market.

A tough market for some companies might mean that they’re selling against a lot of competition, or that potential prospects are beating them down on price — meaning lost margins and lost profit.

Whichever of those situations is affecting you and your business right now, here are some tips on how to sell more in tough market conditions.

1. Increase your new business efforts

My first tip for anyone selling in a tough market is to increase their new business or prospecting efforts. If people are taking longer to decide whether to buy or not, having more prospects is a good exercise in risk mitigation. Secondly, the more prospects you have, the choosier you can be who you work with. What’s more, you can then prioritise your prospects, based on who can make quick buying decisions — which mean quick sales.

For most small businesses I work with, their levels of prospecting just aren’t high enough. In this tough market, they sit there and think, “if only the phone would ring more” or “I wish I got more enquiries over the web”. It’s time to take some action and to get some prospecting done, instead of waiting for it to come to you. Because it probably won’t.

2. Increase the interest from your network

One of easiest things to do to get more sales, more quickly, is to increase the levels of interest in you and your business from your network of existing contacts.  The advance of social media has made this very easy.

How are you communicating with your prospects and existing contacts over social media?  Now I’m not saying that all social media is useful (there are plenty of so-called social media gurus peddling that kind of rubbish), but I am saying that you need to be where your prospects are and communicate with them.

Are you posting success stories for your business? Your new business wins? Examples of how you’ve helped people? Positive feedback and testimonials from customers? If not, now would be a good time to start.

3. Ring fence your existing customers

When you’re selling in a touch market, it is vital that you ring fence your existing customers, in order to stop them going to your competitors.

Think about it, you’ve invested time and money in getting that customer to buy from you in the first place. So why on earth would you let them go without a fight? Surveys have told us for years that the biggest reasons customers leave an existing provider is because of supplier apathy. They just didn’t feel like their business was valued; that we didn’t care. So they took their business elsewhere.

Can we afford for that to happen in a tough market? I don’t think so. So make sure you ring fence your existing customers as a matter of priority.

4. Look for additional sales opportunities

Sometimes there are additional sales opportunities sitting right under our noses. And often we don’t spot them, or sometimes even think of them in the first place.

One of the most effective sales questions of all was simply, “would you like fries with that?”. So simple but did it work?  Of course it did! That question has triggered millions of dollars of additional sales all over the world.

Now, if something that simple can have the impact that it did, what could you introduce in your business to have a similar effect?

It’s simply about spotting the additional sales opportunity at the right moment, or even preparing for it in advance. Think about the process that a customer goes through when they are buying from you. What opportunities are there for additional sales that you’re not taking right now? Or not taking consistently enough? And if you did, what kind of difference would it make to you and your business?

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at

Posted in Sales | Tagged sales, new business | 0 comments

How to start valuable conversations that lead to sales

August 12, 2013 by Sonja Jefferson

How to start valuable conversations that lead to sales/phone handset{{}}“I’m sitting on database gold,” says the owner of a consulting firm.

“I know exactly who I want to do business with. I have a cleaned database of 1500 names. None of them know us yet but we have a really strong track record.

“I really need more clients. What’s the quickest and best way to approach people, get them on side and generate sales?”

How should you approach a cold database today?

This business owner asks a very valid question, one that I know many other businesses struggle with.

Business development is tough today isn’t it? In pretty much every firm I speak to it’s the number one challenge. And so much has changed. Back in the day — well, the early 1990s to be precise — I was a salesperson. At the birth of the telesales era I’d phone people up and they’d sometimes thank me for my call! Can you even imagine that today?

When it comes to doing business today, the big problem is trust. We are all too busy, too oversold to, mistrusting of companies in general and self-oriented selling in particular. When I think of the number of cold sales emails I’ve junked, the number of times I’ve put the phone down on a salesman, the adverts I’ve ignored then this is the only course of action I can recommend.

My recommendations:

  • It is OK to make outbound contact, so long as you add value in the process.
  • Don’t make contact until your platform is right. Your website is the first thing people check if they like what you’ve sent them so make sure it stands up to scrutiny and builds trust with useful content.
  • You want fast results? Start with your warm contacts not the cold list. You have a veritable goldmine of past clients and prospects and other contacts who know you. It’s much easier to strike up a conversation when you have some history. Send them your valuable guides. Tell them what you are doing and ask them for referrals. Invite them to sign up to your newsletter. Reignite the conversation in a valuable way.
  • When it comes to your cold list, think personal contact not blank bomb mass emails. Court them with valuable content. Send out a guide by post in small batches and follow up personally. Invite them to contribute to research and share the results with them. Start conversations on the back of that.
  • Continue to add value with each and every contact. Earn the right to hold that sales conversation. Make it more about helping and less about selling what you have to offer and success will come.

Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and content marketing consultant at Valuable Content. Sonja is co-author, with Sharon Tanton, of Valuable Content Marketing.

How to avoid 'death by PowerPoint'

August 06, 2013 by Andrew Millard

How to avoid “death by PowerPoint”/speaker in podium{{}}It’s the day before your big presentation. You’ve crammed as much information as you possibly can into your PowerPoint slide deck and you’re confident that you haven’t missed anything out. Yet, you can’t seem to shake that nagging doubt that it might not go as well as you had hoped…

In today’s multi-media age, generating audience excitement and engagement armed only with a slide deck is no easy task. Even if your presentation is highly polished, the chances are that your audience will remember just a fraction of the messages you’re hoping to deliver.

And unless you manage to grab their attention in the first two minutes, they could end up plummeting into the catatonic state of boredom characterised by the phrases “death by PowerPoint” and “PowerPoint hell”.

Yet, by keeping in mind a few golden rules, it is possible for presenters to get their point across — and win over even the toughest crowd.

Know your audience

As most of us will have witnessed, even the most confident presenter can slip into bad habits. Among the more frequent mistakes are not having a clear objective or call to action, packing in too much data, failing to excite the audience and the all-too-tempting trap of using PowerPoint as a script.

Yet by far the biggest mistake — identified by 33% of 600 UK professionals in a recent Citrix poll — is the failure to understand your audience.

To overcome this and ensure that the presentation meets or exceeds audience expectations, it is always worth finding out who is likely to attend, as well as thinking about why they are participating. Is it a learning opportunity? Are they escaping work for an hour? Or has the boss told them to come?

Another worthwhile tactic can be to address likely objections head-on by building them into the narrative. This could include, for example, acknowledging that your product or service is among the more expensive in the market and counteracting this by explaining why it makes a better choice than cheaper alternatives.

Get to the point

The best and most memorable presentations tend to be limited to just a handful of key talking points. This way, you’re more likely to lead with your best ideas, generate more impact and increase the likelihood that your audience will remember what you’ve told them.

With time at a premium for most professionals, it’s simply bad manners to speak for longer than the audience had anticipated. And while it might sound obvious, invariably you’re more likely to encourage a sale or achieve positive feedback if you close by reiterating your key objective and qualifying audience benefit.

Make the most of online and offline presentation tools

We’ve all cringed at presentations that rely too heavily on distracting PowerPoint tricks. Yet, there is a good case for using subtle animation and “builds” to introduce each of your points as you’re making them to help ensure that your messages are delivered in palatable chunks.

In addition, bringing in good visuals and keeping the presentation moving at an upbeat pace can also serve to maintain audience attention — an increasingly tough task in today’s multi-media age.

Andrew Millard is senior director of marketing, EMEA at Citrix Online Services.


Posted in Sales | Tagged presentation(s), PowerPoint | 0 comments

How to deal with difficult questions from the floor

May 22, 2013 by Anthony Garvey

How to deal with difficult questions from the floor/chalk drawing{{}}You’ve given your presentation or made a speech. It has gone brilliantly — although you say it yourself. You ask if there are any questions … and over the next few minutes your smile begins to fade as you are caught off guard by a series of tricky and complicated questions from the audience.

Your failure to answer them convincingly undoes much of the good work you had put in during your speech. So how did it all go so wrong?

Here are eight tips to help you prepare:

  1. When you’ve finished preparing your presentation, sit with a blank sheet of paper and write down and answer some easy questions you think you may be asked. Then tackle some of the more awkward questions you can think of. Ask a trusted friend to listen to your speech and get them to ask you some questions too. Importantly you should also ask them to give you feedback on your answers to their questions.
  2. It’s important to anticipate the mood of the audience in advance. If you expect the atmosphere to be tense or confrontational, then give yourself more time to prepare for the Q&A session. 
  3. It’s a good idea to start off a Q&A session getting the person who introduced you to ask the first question, a pre-agreed question for which you are fully prepared. Another tip is to ask and answer the first question yourself. This allows you to set the agenda.
  4. Watch out for any hidden agenda questions. Don’t dismiss or brush off these questions. Listen carefully and you will be able to answer both their initial query and address the underlying problem.
  5. From time to time we are all asked questions we don’t know the answer to or even worse, are asked questions we feel we ought to know the answer to, but don’t. It is best in these circumstances to be honest and open, rather than bluff or waffle. A suitable response might be: “I don’t have that information to hand right now, but if you leave your contact details with me, I will send it through to you later today.”
  6. Pause. Pausing for a few seconds to consider your reply before leaping straight into an answer may feel unnatural at first, but with practice it can give you the extra seconds you need to formulate a coherent reply.
  7. When the Q&A session has finished ideally you should be the last person to leave the room, giving you time to address any final concerns people may have on a one-to-one basis.
  8. Finally, joining a public speaking club such as Toastmasters can be a great way to practice presentation skills in a safe and encouraging environment. In particular, taking part in impromptu speaking session (often known as table topics) where a member is asked to speak for up to two minutes on a subject they have not previously seen is great preparation for answering difficult questions. Taking part in these activities allows speakers to develop their ability to organise their thoughts quickly, an essential weapon in a speaker’s armoury when mastering the Q&A session.

Anthony Garvey is founder of Quinn Garvey PR and a member of Toastmasters International.

Posted in Sales | Tagged presentations | 0 comments

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