Top ten keys to success in sales

After 34 years in the sales business, I thought that I would share my personal top ten keys to success for 2015.

1. The first question you should ask a new prospect is – ” tell me your story ”
You want to learn about the person and their business. This is the best way to build rapport, learn what is important to them, and help you as you move forward. Plus it’s fascinating to learn about how a business was built.

2. People buy for their reasons, not yours. Stop talking about your product or service and start talking about their business – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The more time you spend focused on your prospect, the more you will have an opportunity to make a sale.

3. Avoid taking about price. Once price is introduced into the discussion, it becomes the controlling factor. You may be surprised that price is far less relevant than other factors including benefits, return on investment, convenience, value and so on.

4. Stop sending emails. Did you know that less than 10% of emails are actually opened. Pick up the phone and make a call in order to make an appointment. And get in front of prospects; it is more difficult for a prospect to say no when you are face to face.

5. Listen and ask questions. The perception that the key to sales is talking is absolutely false. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proposition. A good sales call uses the 80/20 rule – and the salesperson is taking only 20% of the time.

6. People buy products or services based on emotions and feelings, not logic or reason. Did you buy your last car because the gas mileage was good and the technical specifications were solid or did you buy your last car because you liked the way you felt on the test drive?

7. Integrity. The only way to succeed long term in the sales business is to be honest. In the interview process, I ask candidates, ” what is the key to success in one word ? ” and the answer I am looking for is honesty. When you tell a client you are going to do something, do it.

8. Sell benefits, not features. Consumers buy a product because it can save them time, make their life easier, make them feel safe and so on. You don’t buy winter tires based in the tread depth, you buy winter tires because they will protect you and your family.

9. Attitude trumps skill. Energy trumps experience. Passion trumps knowledge. The Pareto Principle comes into play again with 80% of sales success based on attitude and 20% based on skill.

10. There is no easy path to sales success. It requires hard work and a determined effort. You don’t become a concert pianist in a few months, you don’t get into impeccable physical condition in a short period of time and the same goes for sales. Work hard and the results will ensue.

Happy Selling.


Stop the sales madness

The vast majority of advertising in 2014 revolves around sales. You can’t listen to the radio, watch TV, read a newspaper, or go online without being bombarded with sales. Car dealers with no interest and terms up to 96 months, furniture stores with Boxing Day sales before Christmas, fashion retailers at 50% off. The problem is that every product or service has now become a commodity and the lowest price is the winner. The value proposition is missing. Every car dealership ad talks about the lowest price and does not take the time to establish the unique value of the dealership. One flooring retailer actually told me that his revenues were up but his margins were down.

So what is the solution?

We must begin the process of creating a compelling unique selling proposition for our business. What do we do as a company for consumers that nobody else does. Sometimes this unique selling proposition does not exist and must be created. Some examples include a gym that is open 24/7/365 and can cater to its customers outside of normal business hours. Another example is a Canadian bank that is now open on Sundays, again to cater to its customers. Perhaps a car dealership that will pick you up your car at your home for service wash it, and return it on the same day. Or a cemetery company that offers burial rights in perpetuity as opposed to the competitors who have 99 years terms. And finally, Tim Hortons campaign which said that their coffee was fresh because they marked the carafe brewing time and threw it out after 20 minutes.

When you are developing your creative approach, consider the following:

1. What is your USP
2. Make that the main focus of your advertising
3. Add emotions if possible
4. Craft your story
5. Have patience
6. Stay the course
7. Make certain that your marketing efforts are universal
8. Make certain that everyone in your company is aware
9. Don’t deviate from the plan
10. Build your brand

For more information on marketing, contact me at

Five keys to sales success

There are five things that determine your success or failure in the world of. And by the way, as long as you are in business, you are in sales. What do you call an attorney who can sell? A partner. If you are a dentist, you must convince people to come to your dental practice, convince them to visit regularly for check ups and teeth cleaning, and convince them to purchase crowns when necessary. If you are a teacher, you must convince your students of the importance of paying attention, the value of learning and the value of a degree.

So what are the five absolute keys to sales success?

1. Energy, enthusiasm and passion. If you are not excited about the product or service that you are selling, then your prospect will never buy. You must convey that energy throughout the sales process, especially when you are closing. I interviewed a candidate this week and felt such tremendous energy that I felt compelled to hire her on the spot. I have also interviewed candidates that had almost no energy, so I ask them if they can get excited about what they are selling or not. I tend to avoid hiring these type of people.

2. Hard work. There is no easy path to success in sales. When you start your career in sales, you must work harder than everyone else on your team. You can’t cut corners. It’s all about phone calls to make appointments, gathering information and solving problems, creating presentations with great ideas and closing. You can’t work from 9am – 5pm, but you don’t have to work 80 – 90 hours a week either. By the way, people who work 80 – 90 hours per week are either badly organized or just simply not effective.

3. Positive attitude. Every time I hire a new salesperson, I begin the training program with an exercise that illustrates the importance of attitude versus skill. The bottom line is that attitude trumps skill every step of the way. I would rather hire a young inexperienced individual with a positive attitude than an experienced representative with a less than stellar attitude. It’s tough to stay positive when faced with constant rejection, however, it is the key to success in sales. I remember a young rep coming into my office one morning and saying that she was going to see a prospect but didn’t think that he would buy. I told her to not bother going on the sales call unless she changed her attitude. If you think you can or you think you cannot, you’re right.

4. Integrity. I ask every candidate in interviews what they feel is the key to success in one word. The word I am looking for is honesty. There is nothing more important than telling the truth to your prospects and customers. If I hear a sales representative embellishing the truth , I will stop and correct them. If you tell a client that you are going to do something, then you just do it. Period. The key to establishing a long term client relationship is honesty because that is how you build trust and establish credibility.

5. Get in front of people. DO NOT rely on technology to make a sale. Technology prevents you from building rapport, effectively communicating, establishing credibility, creating long term business relationships. In actuality, technology is slowly destroying the art of sales. It’s easy to avoid an email. It’s more difficult to avoid a face to face encounter. It’s easy for me to get rid of someone trying to sell me something on the phone, it’s a lot tougher when we are belly to belly. Get out of the office and in front of prospects. Now.

Sales strategies that deliver

Every week, I blog about what I learned in sales in the last five days based on actual sales experiences. Here are several key considerations . . .

1. Assume the sale. If you are seeing a current customer and it is time for a contract renewal, you must approach the meeting in an assumptive fashion. In other words, everything you do and say indicates that the client will be renewing. Make sure to incorporate an increase from year to year and also bring something new to the table. For example, some added value proposition or new information that will enable your client to increase market share

2. Avoid discounting. It’s easy to discount your product or service in order to make a sale but it doesn’t make sense from the perspective of perceived value. At one point, my advertising agency was proposed an opportunity at $850 per week and I said that I would only consider paying half that amount.
The salesperson proceeded to say ok, we can do it for $425 per week. Really. You we’re prepared to rip me off until I negotiated? If you watch Million Dollar Listing, you will see young real estate agents getting almost full price without ever dropping the price to make a sale

3. Target the right prospect. When you are prospecting, spend some time doing your homework to make sure that the prospect you are going to meet with has the following criteria . . .
– they can benefit from your offering
– they can afford your offering
– they can sustain the investment if it is ongoing
– they are engaged in the process

Sales can be like riding a roller coaster, but a combination of perseverance, solid work ethic, and positive energy will emerge triumphant

If your company would be interested in a sales seminar or sales coaching, contact me at

Communication is everything

No matter what job you have in life, your success will be determined 5% by your academic credentials, 15% by your professional experiences and 80% by your communication skills.

If you take a moment and relate this to your daily business experiences, you will quickly realize how true this adage is. Your ability to communicate can be the difference between being a lawyer or a parter. It can be the difference between making or losing a big sale. And it can be the difference between a busy or an empty restaurant on a Saturday evening,

Communication skills are based on three things – words, tone of voice and body language. According to a UCLA study many years ago, words account for less than 10% of your communication effectiveness, tone of voice accounts for almost one third and body language accounts for more than half.

So let’s explore each of these components.

Words are important but the way they are delivered is far more important. In the radio industry, when we voice a commercial, we usually stand and smile. There is a noticeable different in the tone of voice as it is more compelling, more powerful and more enthusiastic. Use your voice to enunciate words, pause for effect, and in the sales arena be sure to use words that offer benefits to the prospect. Sometimes sales people feel the need to talk too fast and talk too much. Less is more. Listening is more important than talking. Your tone of voice should be enthusiastic, positive, confident, and include a next step. The next step can be a meeting, a sale, a demonstration, or a plan to learn more about your prospect before making a presentation. You must never sound like there is a question mark in your voice.

The most important component of communication is body language. Be presentable. We have been doing interviews recently to hire new salespeople and it is surprising how some candidates present themselves. You don’t have to look like a movie star, but you should put your best foot forward. Use energy in your body language, sit straight and look your prospect in the eye. Shake hands firmly and smile. Don’t interrupt and be respectful of the other persons time. Also, try to understand the style of personality that you are dealing with and attempt to mirror that style. If the individual is amiable and talkative, then follow that cue. If they are more direct and to the point, stay on course.

Study the art of communication, take a Dale Carnegie course, and make certain that every interaction results in a positive feeling and success in business and life.

What I learned in sales this week

Sales is tough. Lessons can be learned. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been selling for 3 months or 30 years, there is always something to learn.

Here is a list of what I learned in sales this week.

1. It’s tough to reach a decision maker and set an appointment. Business owners are busier than ever in 2014 and are facing more competition than ever before, not only from bricks and mortar, but also online. In order to make an appointment, which is the best way to make a sale, you must be persistent, creative, unique and offer a benefit to the business owner. Do not talk about your product or service, talk about their product or service and how to bring them more customers. Use different tactics to break through the clutter because email does not work. The tactics include phone calls, texts, LinkedIn messages, Facebook messages, providing them with information that can help their business, blogging, snail mail, and even dropping in with a coffee.

2. Establish clear expectations when you sell a product or service. If the customer expects one outcome and another occurs, you have a disconnect and the relationship becomes problematic. If you are selling a branding campaign on the radio, and the client expects immediate results, they will not continue to advertise. Set out the expectations at the beginning so that both parties are clear. If you want a marketing campaign to brand a product or servcie, it will take time – up to 5 years. If you want to sell a large volume of products in a short period of time, then you must take a different approach with a higher level of frequency and a call to action.

3. Stop wasting time in the office. The most profitable time a salesperson can spend is in front of prospects and customers. Any other tasks such as paperwork, proposal preparation, or calendar juggling should be done before 9am, at lunch, or after 4pm. Use the prime time hours for the most critical activity. Every face to face meeting can result In a sale, strengthening a relationship, a referral, or just a positive feeling of reassurance.

Now get out there and make something happen.

Technology and sales don’t mix

The prevailing wisdom is that technology is a great tool in the world of sales. Software programs enable us to maintain contact with our clients, emails allow us to reach a lot of prospects in one fell swoop, and power point or Prezi give us the opportunity to frame our presentations. But stop and think for a minute. Is it better to send an email birthday wish to a client or to drop in, say hello and bring a small gift. And have you ever purchased a product as a result of an email pitch that you received. And of course effective communication derives from body language and tone of voice and very little from the words that are being said. So where does the effectiveness of words or pictures on a screen come into play. Salespeople are getting lazy. It’s easier to send a mass email than to visit a client face to face. However, the scientific odds of being in front of a prospect are dramatically greater in terms of closing a sale than via an email that probably won’t get opened due to the fact that less than ten percent actually do. Here’s a novel idea – send a snail mail letter. At least the prospect is not getting very many of those anymore. The facts are clear – more face to face appointments equals more sales. As a matter of fact, we are tracking this in our sales operation and the person with the most appointments is our top representative. You accomplish nothing by sitting in your office on your computer. You accomplish a tremendous amount by taking the time to visit prospects face to face. Technology reduces the need for social interaction thereby making the sales process a commodity where the best price wins. There is no opportunity to establish value, differentiation or service. So before you download another customer relationship management program, pick up a Starbucks coffee and visit your top clients as well as your top prospects. You will see an immediate increase in sales results. For more information on sales training, contact me at tim@

Advertising that works

If you listen to the radio, scroll through a newspaper or watch TV, there is one consistent advertising approach that the majority of companies use. In the automotive world, it’s one low monthly lease or finance rate with low interest for an ridiculous term like up to 84 months. In the audio and video field, it’s the lowest price on the largest big screen TV. And of course the grocery circulars which feature loss leaders on limited items to lure the shopper into their store. Every department store has a sale almost on a weekly basis and as such, have trained consumers to wait for the sale. Products and services become commodities and the only point of differentiation is price. Why not take a different approach? The approach that I have used in many business categories is what I call the educational approach to advertising. For example, a financial advisor can create a 60 second commercial and use the first 30 seconds to answer questions about investments. Examples are . . .

– When should you start investing?
– How do you begin planning for retirement?
– What is a tax free savings account and what are the benefits?

As you educate consumers, you build trust and when they are in the market for a financial advisor, they will contact you. The same approach has been used with dentists discussing dental health tips, pool stores talking about how to maintain your pool during the summer and even funeral homes providing information and demystifying the industry.

Think about it – would you use the services of a business that just offered discounts and specials or one that provided useful information. And this approach can be done with any media.

For more information on the educational approach to advertising, email me at

Why is most advertising ineffective

According to Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads, somewhere between 50-90% of advertising is not working. That’s a scary figure given the budgets that some companies allocate to advertising and marketing. There are several reasons why most advertising doesn’t work, but let’s review the three key challenges . . .

1. The average consumer is bombarded with almost 5,000 advertising messages daily. From the moment you wake up in the morning, turn on the radio or TV, read a newspaper – probably online, brush your teeth with Crest or Colgate to the moment you go to bed at night, advertising is assaulting you in a variety of forms.

2. You like to test different media – let’s try radio for several weeks and the run a Facebook campaign or buy a few Google ad words and see what happens. Advertising requires patience and a long term commitment. There is actually a chickening out phase described by Roy Williams at around the 8-13 week period of a campaign where advertisers consider bailing out. It takes years to build a brand and a long term plan to keep the brand top of mind. Everyone knows about McDonalds but do they stop advertising?

3. And the most important component which is the creative message. All forms of advertising work as long as the creative message is compelling and has an emotional appeal as well as a value proposition. There are too many restaurant ads that are on the radio with generic messages which do not illustrate what the business has to offer that the competition does not. There are too many automotive ads in the paper with price and item which ultimately leaves the consumer decision based on that criteria only. A good ad is about the consumer and a bad ad is about the business. What are the benefits of your product or service and how are you different from the rest.

For a review of your advertising plans, email me at