August 2011 | Click links (>>) below to read articles
  • 7 Surefire Ways to Guarantee Your New Offering Flops by Jill Konrath >>
  • Five Keys To More Powerful Sales Meetings by Kevin Davis >>
  • Managing Older Salespeople by Brian Jeffrey, CSP >>
  • Fundamental And Essential Sales Management Skills by Jim Meisenheimer >>

7 Surefire Ways to Guarantee Your New Offering Flops
by Jill Konrath

New products and services are the lifeblood of organizations. The sales force eagerly awaits their arrival, hoping for a short-term competitive edge in a cut-throat marketplace. Yet when new products or services are launched, many sellers become their own worst enemy. They make these seven critical mistakes that slow down or even totally derail their best sales efforts.

Mistake 1: Ungrounded in Reality
If a salesperson isn't totally familiar with how customers handle things without their new product or service, they're at a major disadvantage. If they don't understand the likely problems customers experience because of their current product or method, as well as the implications for their business, their ability to create value is severely hampered. Without knowledge of the pay-off customers get from using the new product or service, salespeople aren't able to sell with confidence or handle tough obstacles.

Mistake 2: Questionable Practices
Good questions drive the sales process. They don't just emerge from thin air when a sales rep is sitting in front of a prospective customer. They take time to develop. Salespeople omitting this critical step invariably flounder during customer meetings. Uncovering dissatisfaction or pain with status quo is difficult. Discovering gaps between the customer's vision of the future and their current state is a formidable challenge. Building a business case to make a change is next to impossible.

Mistake 3: In Pursuit of Glory
Calling on top prospects first can be a big mistake! The first time salespeople sell any new product or service, they often screw things up. Their knowledge of the customer's situation may be spotty and their presentations ragged. Unanticipated questions and obstacles cause them to stumble. Their overall effectiveness is much lower than it would be if they had a few practice sessions with "B" prospects under their belt.

Mistake 4: Faulty Premises
Setting up meetings to update customers about the new product or service can lead to trouble. Arranging the meeting isn't the mistake - just its premise. If sales reps tell customers they're bringing information about the new product or service, that's exactly what customers expect the meeting to be about. Sellers then find it exceedingly difficult to switch into a questioning mode - an essential step for determining valid business and financial reasons for changing. Instead they're expected to talk, talk, talk - and boy, do they ever!

Mistake 5: Leaning Forward
Laugh all you want at this one, but it's a killer. When salespeople lean forward, they're pitching - pure and simple. It usually happens after they hear a problem they can solve. Consultative selling behaviors immediately evaporate as the salesperson leans forward to start talking about the new product or service. Customers quickly erect barriers, protecting themselves from the onslaught. A major sales delay is guaranteed.

Mistake 6: Brandishing Brochures

Designed to be a sales aid, marketing collateral has been the death of more sales than anyone dares to imagine. Their improper use in early meetings with prospective clients, focuses discussion on two deadly areas: product/service features and pricing. Needs are forgotten. Because value has never been developed, the cost is always too high. Vendors are ruled out based on irrelevant capabilities that have minimal impact on achieving the desired end result.

Mistake 7: The Road to Nowhere
Without a clearly defined next step implanted in their brains prior to the call, salespeople are doomed. Just sharing exciting new product information gets sellers nowhere. Unless they have a clearly defined objective before the call and are ready to offer logical next steps, they'll be left sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring.

Next time your company introduces a new product or service, make sure your sales force avoids these common yet often catastrophic mistakes. It'll make a big difference in your sales results!

About Jill Konrath:

Want to learn more about the new rules of selling to crazy-busy prospects? To get four FREE sales-accelerating tools and download two chapters of SNAP Selling, visit

Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, helps sellers crack into new accounts, speed up sales cycles and win big contracts. She's a frequent speaker at sales conferences. 

For more fresh sales strategies that work with crazy-busy prospects AND to get four free sales-accelerating tools, visit

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Five Keys To More Powerful Sales Meetings
by Kevin Davis

To achieve maximum value from your next sales meeting, prepare the ending first.

Throughout history, great leaders have inspired others to action by preparing, then delivering carefully constructed conclusions to speeches. Lincoln's, "Government of the people, by the people, for the people . . . ," Patrick Henry's, "Give me liberty or give me death," and John Kennedy's, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" are a few examples.

Great speakers have a clear understanding about specifically what they want the audience to do as a result. So, when you sit down to prepare your meeting, write the ending first. What should salespeople be able to do after the meeting? What will they need to do different in the future? What does your top salesperson do that your other salespeople don't? When you write the ending first, it will be much easier to plan the introduction and body of your meeting.

Here is a step by step method to plan your next sales meeting.

1. Be very specific about what you want your salespeople to do. Avoid vague words like "understand" and "appreciate." List no more than two or three actions, anymore will be difficult to remember. Tell them what you want them to do and when. For instance:

  • Schedule five face-to-face appointments with new prospects next week.
  • Ask each prospect what he likes best and least about his present method.
  • Ask each prospect to speculate on future time, money, and productivity costs if she doesn't solve their problem now.

2. Make at least one of the actions something simple your salespeople can do immediately. As the saying goes, "well begun is half done." If your salespeople leave with something simple to do they are more likely to do it. When they take action and achieve results they will be more likely to act on the other things you asked them to do.

3. Outline your conclusion as follows:

  • Summarize key points into short, but memorable, sentences.
  • Restate the main benefit and appeal to salespeople's emotion as well as logic. Emotional appeals include financial freedom, health vitality, safety, romance, piece of mind, and personal fulfillment.
  • Tell your salespeople specifically what you want them to do.

4. Save your best "Ah ha!" points for last. Too many sales meeting flow like a bell curve, up but the beginning and down at the end. This brings your audience down just before the most important part - your conclusion. Pull out a pad of Post-it notes and write just one topic on each note. Arrange your topics to ensure that you build up to a conclusion and not down.

5. Follow-up to measure the action taken. Great speakers know that their success is measured by the action that the audience takes as a result. Be specific in your follow-up. For instance, in the example cited earlier you might ask, "How many new face-to-face appointments did you set for last week? What questions did you ask? What were your results?"

What you say last in your sales meeting is what your salespeople will remember most. A well planned and presented conclusion can inspire your team to action. When you follow these simple steps your meetings will be more effective. Plus, you'll feel a great sense of accomplishment when you see your ideas actually being implemented in the field.

About The Author:
Kevin Davis is the president of TopLine Leadership Inc., a company that provides sales and sales management training services that dramatically increase productivity. Kevin has 28 years of sales, sales management and training experience. Many successful companies, including IKON Office Solutions, BellSouth Business Systems and Bayer Diagnostics have adopted Davis’ sales method as their company-wide “language of selling.” Davis’ “Sales Management Leadership in the 21st Century” seminar has been delivered to over 20,000 sales managers.

Visit his website at:

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Managing Older Salespeople
by Brian Jeffrey, CSP

Whether by choice or necessity, many people today are staying in the workforce longer. There are a lot of folks (me included) who missed out on the early retirement, Freedom 55 craze that spread across North America. Many of us are now working on a Freedom 95 (or death, whichever comes first) retirement plan!

So whether it's for love of work or economic necessity, the older salesperson is much more prevalent in the workforce today. These older salespeople present a challenge to younger sales managers. They're also a handful for us older sales managers.

The Gaps
There is not only a generation gap between these two groups of people; in some cases it's a generations gap. It's not unusual these days to have a 65-year-old salesperson reporting to a 25-30 year old manager.

In addition to the age gap, there is also an experience gap, an attitude gap, and a maturity gap. Each of these gaps presents unique challenges and opportunities.

The Age Gap
Amongst other things, the age gap may highlight another challenge — a difference in stamina and physical energy levels.

Managers can't expect the more senior members of their sales teams to carry the same physical loads when it comes to carting stuff around, loading and unloading materials at trade shows, etc. The problem is that some of these older people are very proud and want to carry their share of the load. Let them do so; just try to make sure it isn't the physical part. Find things for them to do while other younger, more physically fit, members of the team do the heavy stuff.

Mentally, older salespeople are just as able as their younger counterparts, but because they have a vast amount of knowledge in their mental storeroom (their brain), it takes them a bit longer to assimilate new information. Product knowledge and sales training sessions need to be properly paced to avoid overload. Don't schedule 10-12 hour training days at your annual sales meetings. That drives everyone, young and old, into information overload (and eats into the evening drinking/socializing time as well). Train for quality, not quantity.

The Experience Gap
Older salespeople feel that they know it all and that younger sales managers haven't much to offer.

About the worst thing a younger sales manager can do is try to impress the older salesperson with his vast knowledge because, compared to the seasoned salesperson, his knowledge is half-vast.

Rather than dazzle or impress, utilize. The older salesperson's experience may help you find your way across the management minefield without getting blown up. Be confident enough in your own abilities to ask seasoned salespeople for their input or even advice. Don't be intimidated by their years of experience. Treat them as a valued resource.

The Attitude Gap
Bad attitudes can exist on the part of both parties.

I've seen sales managers, whose title has gone to their head, become a backward boss. (Spell boss backwards and what do you get—a double SOB!)

Then there's the old-timer salesperson who resents being managed by a young twerp.

My advice for the sales manager is to learn how to lead, not manage, your salespeople. Be a resource to them. Be careful to not bulldoze over them when presenting ideas and don't try to use intimidation as a management tool. Above all, be a good listener.

My advice for the salesperson is to show the maturity and leadership that your years of experience have given you. Remember, just because your manager is 20 or so years younger than you doesn't mean he can't offer new ways of doing things. Once you stop learning, you start aging… real fast.

The Maturity Gap
I'd love to tell you that the older you get, the more mature you become. Don't I wish!

Age doesn't equate to maturity, but attitude does. We've all seen young people who come across as being much older and wiser than their years would indicate. And we've also seen older people who we'd like to say "grow up" to.

In my experience, the maturity gap usually happens because the salesperson has regressed into his/her second childhood, is getting close to retirement and doesn't give a damn, or has an attitude problem.

If you've got a maturity gap, both people need to grow up. The more mature of the two needs to take the high road and offer assistance. Because the older salesperson is less likely to listen to the younger sales manager, this is a situation where outside assistance can make the difference. You may need an arbiter to get the relationship on track.

An Incredible Resource
Older salespeople can be an incredible resource. In addition to the experience and knowledge they bring to the table, they can act as mentors for younger salespeople. They also bring a sense of history to their companies or industries. Properly managed, they can be a valuable resource.

About Brian: Brian Jeffrey, co-founder and president, Salesforce Assessments Ltd, works with organizations who want to make the right hiring decisions by assessing a person’s suitability for sales using his sales assessment test. After years of hiring as many losers as winners, Brian figured that there just had to be a better way to make the hiring decision. That’s when Brian started the research and testing that ultimately evolved into the Sales Temperament Assessment. For over 20 years, companies have used the Sales Temperament Assessment to assess thousands of salespeople and make even better hiring decisions.

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Fundamental And Essential Sales Management Skills
by Jim Meisenheimer

Sales Management is an extremely challenging position today - just ask any newly appointed sales manager.

Being a sales manager today, is a tough job - and it can also be extremely rewarding. Here's what I find bizarre. There are too many under trained sales managers trying to coach and develop their under trained salespeople. It's not a pretty picture.

What do you think happens when that happens? Right - nothing much happens.

On a recent trip to Chicago, to conduct a one half-day sales training program, I was off to Las Vegas to present a two-day Sales Management training program.

I'm sitting in an aisle seat (9D) on American Airlines flight #1417. Once I settled in I exchanged hellos with the guy sitting next to me.

I asked, "What kind of work do you do?"

He says, "I'm a sales manager" and proceeds to tell me about his company, his responsibilities, and some of his problems.

After a while he asks me, "What about you - what kind of work do you do?"

I gave him my prepared elevator speech, "I coach and train salespeople and sales managers on how to increase sales, earn more money, have more fun, and how to do it all in less time."

He says, "You coach sales managers, man could I ever use a coach!"

I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "One day I'm a very successful sales representative and the next day I'm a sales manager."

He continues and says "Hey, I wanted this job - it was a dream come true for me." Along with the promotion I got the standard "Hit the road Jack kind of attitude from my company."

"It wasn't mean-spirited, just a go figure-it-out for yourself kind of an attitude."

I asked him one of my favorite questions - a question that uncovers specific problems. I said, "Keith, as a sales manager, what are some of the biggest challenges you're dealing with now?"

He said, "You got an hour to hear them all?" I took some notes while he was talking and here's a list of what he said he needed help with:

  • Recruiting
  • Interviewing
  • Planning
  • Time management
  • Coaching
  • Motivation
  • Planning a dynamite sales meeting
  • Strategic account plans
  • Measuring performance
  • Sitting goals that get results
  • Leadership
  • Self confidence

I said, "That's quite a list."

He says, "My wife thinks I'm nuts for taking the Sales Management position."

She says, "You're working longer hours, you're always stressed out, and you're always thinking about work."

If you're a sales representative please forward this to every sales manager you know, who wants to become the best they can be in their role as a new sales manager.

If you're a sales manager, take a close look in the mirror and ask yourself, "How am I doing as a sales manager?" If you want to achieve superior results as a sales manager you'll have to have superior sales management skills at your fingertips.

Here are three sales management tips you can use, especially if you're a new sales manager:

1. You need to ask your boss, beg if you have to, to allow you to take a fundamentals of sales management course. There are many to choose from. I have my own sales management program that has helped 3,867 sales managers sharpen their sales management skills.

2. You must become a voracious reader of these publications. The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fast Company. Plan to buy and read at least one business book every month to stay ahead of your primary competitors.

3. You must spend at least 70% of your time in the field with your salespeople, sales prospects, and customers. Generals don't win wars seated comfortably behind big oak desks.

Your sales team will achieve better selling results the less time you spend behind your desk.

You can become the best sales manager in your industry as soon as you acquire the necessary skills to do the job.

Your Sales Management position just might be the best line management job you'll ever have!

I know it's the best job I ever had!

About The Author:

Jim is a Sales Strategist and is the creator of No-Brainer Selling Skills. He shows salespeople and entrepreneurs how to increase sales, earn more money, have more fun, and how to do it all in less time. His focus is on practical ideas that get immediate results. He offers Advanced Sales Management Workshops, Sales Coaching, Consulting, In-house Sales Training Programs, and a wide variety of Learning Tools i.e. books, special reports, sales manuals, and CDs.Jim Meisenheimer is a member of The National Speakers Association, where he earned the C.S.P. designation, Certified Speaking Professional. He has authored five books including, "The 12 Best Questions To Ask Customers," and the recently published “57 Ways To Take Control Of Your Time And Your Life”.



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