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What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you...

October 05, 2015 by Andy Bounds

What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you…{{}}The Sales Executive Council (SEC) has found that salespeople behave in one of five ways, depending on the situation. Here's what they found.

(As you read this, ask yourself two questions: "Which am I?" and "Which is best?")

The relationship builder

  • Gets along with everyone;
  • Builds strong advocates in organisations;
  • Is generous in giving time to others.

The reactive problem solver

  • Reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders;
  • Ensures that all problems are solved;
  • Detail-orientated.

The lone wolf

  • A bit of a maverick - follows their own instincts;
  • Self-assured;
  • Can be difficult to control.

The hard worker

  • Always willing to go the extra mile;
  • Doesn't give up easily;
  • Self-motivated;
  • Interested in feedback and development.

The challenger

  • Has a different view on the world;
  • Understands the customer's business;
  • Loves to debate, often creating "positive tension" with the customer to help arrive at the best outcome.

Those two questions again:

  1. Which are you?
  2. Which is best?

The SEC found that most salespeople were relationship builders. The idea being that the better someone likes you, the more likely they are to buy from you.

But they found that the most successful salespeople were challengers. In other words, those who provoke customer thinking.

So, whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship; the challenger often seeks to disagree, to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution.

The rationale here is: customers don't always know what's best for them. As Henry Ford famously said "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse".

The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think "Well I'd never thought of it like that". When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again. Great for them; and for you.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, 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.

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What makes people buy?

October 27, 2014 by Richard Edwards

What makes people buy?{{}}What factors help a customer to buy?

There are a wide variety of things that influence a purchase decision – budget, timing and personal psychology to name a few; but there is one fundamental factor that brings all these influences together – value.

Value is a subjective perception created through a blend of need, price and the belief that one product is better than another. Good value is seen as a high quality solution which meets all of a customer’s needs at a reasonable price.

Here’s how need, price and belief play into a perception of value:


I see a pair of hiking boots on offer and I recognise the brand; but the fact that I don’t go hiking means that I won’t value them highly.

Some marketing works to convince the consumer that they have a need. For example, if I’d read an article explaining how hiking boots improved posture, helped stimulate blood flow and were good for your feet, then by the time I saw the boots I may have developed a “need” for them.

Grooming potential customers this way is an excellent way of enhancing the perceived value for your product or service and can help you break into new markets.


Set your price point as high as you can; this helps to enhance the perceived value of your product.

A big mistake is to slash prices. This can work, particularly when it comes to more exclusive discounts, but offering a huge discount lowers the perceived value of the product. Who is going to pay “full price” for a sofa at DFS when most of the year they are offering 50% off?

Belief in product

The price point will often lead customers to believe one product is better than another. However, people will not be willing to pay a higher price if they do not believe in the product; the two factors work in tandem.

Belief is about your brand, your marketing and their knowledge of the product range. It is what 80% of your marketing budget helps to create. And it is the one area over which you have the most control.

So how do you go about creating this belief in your product or service?

There is no single method, but there is a core concept: “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I will understand.”

Tell me

People may forget the specifics but they will be primed to receive your brand, and priming can be important in establishing credibility.

For example, you conduct a PR campaign where you write thought-provoking articles relating to your product or service. In the article you describe the problem (establish a need), drop some hints as to a solution (brand priming) and get it featured in an established trade magazine (credibility).

Show me

Visual memory is more powerful for most people than verbal memory, particularly when “show me” still involves some verbal explanation – “show and tell”. Exhibitions and trade shows are great for this.

Involve me

"Involving" your prospect creates an experience that uses all three types of memory/learning: verbal, visual and kinesthetic (touching and using) to create an almost unbreakable belief in your product. If you are there to tell the prospect the benefits, you can create a need. At the same time you show how the product or service meets those needs visually. Then, the final step, you let the prospect try with the product, get them involved in using it and create an experience.

Creating a complete and immersive experience of your product or service increases recall, generates belief in the product and, in the end, turns prospective customers into brand ambassadors. You aren’t as likely to share the fact that you saw some new product, but you will want to tell people what you just tried out - experiences are made to be shared.

Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.

Three ways to lose a sale

October 22, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Three ways to lose a sale{{}}Businesses spend a lot of time and money on marketing with the aim of attracting more clients and selling more products.

So why do so many of them make it so hard for people to buy? Are you guilty of ensuring a prospect won’t buy from you?

These are the three most common reasons a potential client won’t buy from you:

Your proposition is unclear

What business are you in, where is your expertise and why should I work with you? Are you offering tangential products or services that make you look unfocused or desperate for money?

When a potential client visits your website or reads your personal profile what does it say about you? Are you expert in one thing or do you appear a master of none?

Breaking promises

How many times have you heard the sentence “I will get XYZ to call you back” or “I will get that in the post for you” and nothing happens?

These minor irritations really can damage your business. Not only do you annoy a customer that wants to do business with you, but you also create a story for the complainer to share with their friends (your potential future clients).

Annoy your potential customers and you are wasting their time and losing yourself a future client.

Making it too difficult to pay

This is the biggest sin of all. They want to spend money with you – help them, don’t hinder them.

Do you have clear instructions on how to buy or how to pay? Do you have payment options like Paypal, WorldPay, Sage, send a cheque, make a bank transfer or any other appropriate options for your target client? Older clients often prefer to call a human and make a payment by phone. What about payment options such as staged payments for higher value goods or monthly direct debits?

Whatever business you are in, getting money from clients quickly and easily is crucial to the lifeblood of your business.

The solution is simple; read your website and marketing material as if you were a customer. How easy is it to understand, is it jargon free, consistent and clear? Once the client knows what you do, can they place an order or ask a question easily?

If not, you may find your competitors are helping themselves to money from your clients’ purses.

Copyright © 2014 Vicki Wusche, property investor and author.

How a simple covering email can backfire

October 08, 2014 by Andy Bounds

How a simple covering email can backfire{{}}I once helped a consultant write a proposal for a big project. It was worth a lot of money to him. It would have been his biggest contract.

The proposal we wrote was really good. But he didn’t win the work.

When he asked why not, they said they were so underwhelmed by his covering email, that they didn’t feel they could trust him with such an important project.

Their exact words were: “If you don’t take care of little things like emails when you know we’re watching, how can we trust you to take care of big things when you don’t think we are?”


I asked him to send me the email in question. It said…

Title: FYI

See attached


How utterly dreadful. And what a waste.

We’d created this wonderful proposal. If the customer had just read it, the consultant would have had an outstanding chance of winning the business. But all our effort was ruined by the first thing they saw.

So, what about your covering emails? How good are they? Do you put much time into making them brilliant? Do you put any?

The good news: there are many ways to craft a good one. Here’s one that works very well…

Title: John, here’s the email you requested about [insert topic]


As [promised/requested], I attach the [communication] about [topic].

You’ll see it contains some critical points. In particular:

  • [highlight 1]
  • [highlight 2]
  • [highlight 3]

As agreed, I’ll ring you at [time] on [date] to discuss how we should proceed. If you want to discuss before then, please buzz my mobile — [number].


You’ll notice:

  1. The title is compelling. This ensures he opens the email.
  2. It starts with “As promised”. This reminds him that he’s already verbally engaged with you, and that you’ve written the document he requested. (An important note: if you haven’t had this chat beforehand, it’s less likely that your communication will impress. After all, when you know what he wants, you’re more likely to write something he wants. But when you don’t…).
  3. Briefly mentioning 2-3 highlights means he’s more likely to open the document, to read the detail.
  4. There’s a clear call to action — “I’m calling you on X. But call me if you prefer”. Again, note that this has been verbally agreed beforehand.
  5. By providing your direct contact details, you’re empowering him to increase the pace if he wants to.
  6. The email’s short, but it contains enough information to persuade him to open the attachment. You don’t need to re-write half your document. But neither can you write only “see attached”.

Let’s face it, it doesn’t take long to write an email like this. It only takes a few minutes. But if you don’t get it right, you might find you’ve wasted all the hours you’ve spent on your proposal.

Copyright © 2014 Andy Bounds, 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.

Five tips on selling during the upturn

June 10, 2014 by Andy Preston

Five tips on selling during the upturn/ The road to recovery signpost{{}}It’s funny how coming out of the recession hasn’t got nearly as much media coverage as when we went into it. Right now, savvy salespeople and companies are taking advantage of the upturn. But are you fully prepared?

1. Write a sales plan

If you’re a salesperson, you need to have a written sales plan of how you’re going to exceed your sales target. If you’re a sales manager, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a sales director, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a business owner, you need to have a written sales plan. There is no excuse for not having a written sales plan.

2. Focus, focus, focus

The next step is to make sure you’re focused. Most firms have had to be more focused than ever during the recession as they have faced a drop-off in enquiries and sales leads. This forced their sales team to concentrate harder on new opportunities and focus on how they were going to get it to convert into business.

If the market is starting to pick up, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of taking those enquiries for granted — as some companies had done before the recession really hit them. If you’re starting to get lots more enquiries, your sales plan will help you focus on the best opportunities, and the ones you and your team are most likely to convert.

3. Work to your strengths

This is an important point and one that’s often missed. The important thing is to be aware of your energy levels. Back when I was a sales manager, I had one rep that truly was a morning person — jumping around at 8.30 in the morning, yet when 3pm came he was almost asleep!

We decided to play to his strengths and arranged his diary to take advantage of his energy levels. We made his new business activity (cold calls, new business appointments) in the morning, and existing client calls and paperwork in the afternoon. Month on month his sales went up 50%. Amazing.

Are you playing to the strengths of your team? Think about how to best use your resources right now and play to the strengths of your staff.

4. Block out time for prospecting

I’ve lost count of the times people have said to me, “We don’t have time for prospecting/cold calling” or “I know I should have made some calls today, but things just got in the way”.

There is no excuse for not prospecting. Sales managers continually get frustrated with salespeople who “ride the sales rollercoaster” — a good month, followed by a bad month, followed by a good month, followed by a bad month.

This is usually because the salesperson has become so busy dealing with their leads that they haven’t had time for prospecting, which means less leads the following month — and that leads to a lack of sales.

Everyone should make time for prospecting. It should be the most important thing in your day. Too many salespeople don’t prospect because it’s easier to deal with existing customers but then they complain when they miss targets the following month.

5. Get motivated

Already this year, lots of companies have asked me to come in and help motivate their sales team. Companies that want to steal a march on their competitors are looking to get better results from their teams.

Motivation is vital to your success. Many firms make the mistake of assuming that their salespeople are already motivated. Yet in my experience, most salespeople generally work between 30-50% of their potential.

If you’re a manager or a director, what steps are you taking right now to work on the motivation of your team? If you’re the salesperson, what would it take for you to feel more motivated right now? And don’t say “more money”. That’s known as commission!

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

Posted in Sales | Tagged upturn, sales, recovery | 0 comments

Why all your staff should be involved in selling

April 03, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why all your staff should be involved in selling/Teamwork and corporate profit with red statistical{{}}You may have a fabulous sales team but if you don’t encourage the rest of your people to sell and support the sales process, you’re missing a golden opportunity. It’s not just your sales people who should be selling!


A good marketing department should directly influence your sales. They should identify new and fruitful markets for you to approach, helping you to find and convert prospective clients. Marketing can also influence product development, helping you to devise pricing strategies and prepare all creative collateral.

Customer service

By listening to customer feedback, your customer service people are in a prime position to identify customer frustrations and turn negatives into positives. What’s more, they can listen out for suggested improvements to products or services based on customer feedback. In addition to influencing sales, your customer services can encourage clients to return if they’ve had a positive customer experience.


Indirectly, other departments in your company can also influence sales. Your accounts team can free up your salespeople’s time by chasing up invoices and purchase orders for them. They can also provide salespeople with information on customer spending patterns as well as keeping costs under control so that prices can be competitive.


You may initially think that your IT team can’t boost sales, but key tasks in that department can play an important role in influencing them. Your IT people can Identify and invest in software to support your sales team, such as CRM. They’ll also be responsible for providing the hardware to support the sales team and may be involved in providing reliable remote access so sales teams can work whilst on the road.

Delivery team

Any delivery department will be able to ensure the quality of your product as well as its availability. They can provide a positive experience when liaising with customers and, like the customer service department, they can listen out for suggested improvements. What’s more, if your delivery team isn’t delivering on the sales team’s promises, then you won’t be getting any repeat sales.

So, whilst your sales department may do a fabulous job, they shouldn’t work in isolation. Make explicit the contributions made by other departments, so all your people can appreciate their involvement in the selling process. Selling is an activity that almost everyone can be involved in, and should be involved in.

In the words of Mark Cuban, American businessman and investor, “I still work hard to know my business … and I'm always selling. Always.”

Heather Foley is a consultant at ETS, a UK-based HR technology specialist.

Posted in Sales | Tagged Sales management, sales | 0 comments

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