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Selling from the Blind Side

By Paul Johnson

759 words. Abstract: Salespeople have a blind side, just like quarterbacks. A simple 3-step approach allows catastrophes to be avoided before your sales are sacked.

Are you prepared for what’s going to “get you” tomorrow? I’m not suggesting you live in fear or continually look over your shoulder. Yet I’m puzzled why people, especially salespeople, don’t invest in preparing for what they KNOW is bound to happen.

The movie The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock made people aware of the value of the left tackle. Most people might correctly assume that the quarterback would be the highest-paid member of a football team. What fewer people know is that the left tackle is often the second highest-paid member. Their job is to protect the right-handed quarterback from the rusher they know is coming from their left — their blind side. Football teams pay for protection — insurance, if you will — to prevent predictable problems before they happen. They know it pays to take the long view.

Tackle the Investment
Not taking a longer view is costly. You’ll waste important opportunities, and experience frustration, stress, and unneeded expense. Conversely, when you prepare to protect your blind side, you’ll gain confidence, make better use of your time, and enjoy more money and other rewards. You’ll find yourself long on success and short on failures.

Yet few people invest in protecting their blind side. Although they know specific problems will likely happen, they’re content to deal with them when they arrive. It’s hard not to fall into that mind-set today. Our fast-paced lifestyle makes it hard to do everything we know we should do, and fewer resources (“doing more with less”) further exacerbate these situations. Yet many times we erroneously choose to do the conveniently urgent instead of the strategically important work that will deliver consistently powerful performance.

If you’d like to avoid getting blindsided (again), consider using this three step approach.

I. Get Real
When you consider all of the places that problems can come from, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Gain some control by evaluating the threats; then you can focus on the ones with catastrophic consequences.

The odds are exceptionally high that the money you recently spent on your life insurance premium will be wasted today, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have invested in that payment because, if you did die today, the consequences could be catastrophic for your family.

While most of your business decisions don’t include death as a consequence, some are pretty serious. For instance:

  • Have you been selling to the “wrong” decision maker?
  • Does your new client really have the ability to pay you?
  • Will the objection you’re not prepared for tank your sale in the 11th hour?

Get real about your potential problems by evaluating their threat levels and then making sure you have prepared to pre-empt catastrophe.

II. Get Records
Once you’re aware of the potential catastrophes coming from your blind side, make plans in advance of them happening to avert them. By “get records”, I mean to write your plans down. Put every action plan into permanent media, a record of what will happen. Like records on a turntable, you want them to be repeatable and accessible. You want to be able to get your hands on the plans you want to use and the tactics you’ll employ at a moment’s notice.

III. Get Ready
Once you’ve evaluated potential threats and isolated the plans and tactics in the form of records that will help you avert them, it’s time to prepare. Review the records on a regular basis to ensure you’ll know how to foil impending catastrophe. Practice those tactics that will help you handle that objection you know is coming, or confirm you are indeed talking to the decision maker. Play your records over and over again so you don’t have to think about them.

Be Comfortable, Not Stupid
If you find yourself blindsided more often than you deem comfortable, you probably haven’t taken time to objectively assess impending threats. We all have too much to do, but don’t let that excuse doom you. When you take time to sit down and assess potential threats, you’ll discover that relatively few carry catastrophic consequences. Once you get clear on what those consequences are, you’ll find yourself motivated to address them… in advance.

If you want to be the highest-paid member of your sales team, you can’t do it if your blind side isn’t protected. Your company can’t hire you a left tackle, so you’ll need to put your own plans in place. If you’re ready to bring more power to your selling game, it’s time to Get Real, Get Records, and Get Ready.

The book called Top Dog Recession-Busting Sales Secrets

Click to learn more.

© 2010 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson is an expert on ConsultativeSelling and co-author of the new Top Dog Recession-Busting Sales Secrets; get it at http://tinyurl.com/recessionbust. Learn about Consultative Selling at http://consultativeselling.com

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When did your preparation pay off when a potential catastrophe came knocking on your door?

Posted: under Achieving Results (Production).
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Comments (1) Jun 01 2010

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Your Performance Improvement Trap

We all want to be good at SOMEthing. When performance improvement is on your mind, it’s easy to fall for one particular trap that will surely hold you back.

For instance, it might be a trap for me to write on this topic myself. Why? Because somebody else has already written about it so well. Allow me to introduce you to Garold Markle, who is an expert at performance improvement in the workplace. We’ve been friends for a long time, and I am glad to see his book, Catalytic Coaching: The End of the Performance Review, continue to do so well. As you’ll see, one of his strengths is writing. Now I turn the “pen” over to him, so he can share with you…

THE WEAKNESS TRAP

By Garold L. Markle

What is the best thing to do with a weakness? According to the Gallup Poll data, the most successful managers don’t normally try to fix an employee’s weakness. Instead, they work around it. Ignore it, if possible. While this sounds counter intuitive to some, it actually agrees with what most of us have noticed in life. Consider coaching.

What would a football coach do with a short but fast player who has quick hands? Try to fatten him up and make him stronger? Of course not. The coach would place him in the defensive backfield where speed and agility are key. He would charge the small, fast guy with getting faster. Meanwhile, he’d take his biggest, strongest player and challenge him to become bigger and stronger.

“Markle! Don’t put the ball on the floor!!” That’s what my basketball coach used to scream at me. 40 years later, the words still echo in my ears. At six foot seven inches tall, I was not a very adept dribbler. When I tried to dribble, the ball would hit one of my feet almost as often as it hit the floor. On the other hand, I could rebound with the best of them. So what did the coach do with me? He asked me to stand under the basket and retrieve missed shots. Did he ask me to work on my dribbling? Are you kidding? He actually forbade me from doing it. I got benched if I dribbled the ball, even if I did it successfully. The coach made it clear that my playing time would be determined by my ability to rebound. If I wanted to maximize my contribution to the team, I would not attempt to become some kind of well rounded version of Michael Jordan. I would emulate Dennis Rodman – the ultimate rebounding specialist.

In Catalytic Coaching we ask managers to select four “Areas for Improvement” that they want a direct report to focus on for the upcoming year. Since we compel them to do this immediately after discussing “Strengths” it‘s quite natural that people draw the wrong conclusions. Their mind thinks in parallel structure. They select four things that form the person’s competitive advantage and call those Strengths. They assume then that the next section is where they “write him up” for his shortcomings. If they follow this instinctual path, however, they will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the coaching process. They’ll fall quickly into The Weakness Trap spending good energy on a bad idea.

For a fully functioning employee, Areas for Improvement are more productively focused on Strengths that a coach would like to see more of. I can recall several years ago praising an executive assistant for her “Organization Skills” under the Strengths section only to request that she use these abilities more aggressively as an Area for Improvement. Rather than smile with bemusement at how I muddled my complicated travel plans, I challenged her to take them on as one of her responsibilities. Was she deficient in travel planning? Absolutely not. She had never been asked to do it. It was, however, a wonderful way for her to enhance her contribution.

No matter what I say to managers and supervisors in coaching training sessions, people seem to miss this point. When I work with them one on one (in a ritual we call “In-Flight Training”) it is often their biggest revelation. “I didn’t know we could ask her to do more of what she’s good at,” they’ll say, despite the fact that I made this point several times in class. Once they have this experience, however, the light comes on and they advance to a different level of coaching effectiveness.

When people tell me that coaching becomes redundant over the years, often the reason is that they’ve fallen into a rut of treating Areas for Improvement like Weaknesses. Here’s what someone told me recently. “I’ve written Thomas up as needing to work on his Analytical Skills for the last three years. I can do it again, but I don’t really think he’s going to improve.” When I asked if Thomas was worth keeping, the answer was both quick and unequivocal. “Absolutely! He produces a high volume of work.” The only thing needed here was for the coach to refocus his employee’s improvement efforts on things that were more realistic and valuable. Challenge Thomas to do more heavy lifting, just don’t assign him tasks that require heavy analysis.

The same ideas apply at home. When a child walks through the door with a report card showing five As, two Bs and one D, what do we always talk to her about? The low grade, of course. We tell her how the subpar subject matter is critical to proper growth and development and force her to spend more time focused on areas in which she’s potentially ill equipped to excel. Instead of lecturing our mathematically-inclined daughter on the merits of mastering English and Geography, if that’s where she’s behind, perhaps we’d be better served to encourage her to focus the bulk of her attention on Physics and Calculus, where she sits at the head of her class. After all, who cares whether the nuclear physicist that designs the first truly viable electric car can write creatively or explain haiku? And her computer or secretary can clean up her misspelled words.

So how do we avoid The Weakness Trap? Consider taking the following actions:

  1. Design Around Weaknesses. Whenever possible shift roles and responsibilities to give those who work for you a chance to focus on what they’re good at and what they enjoy. Fit the job to the people and the people to the job. Not all accountants have to have identical responsibilities. The same goes for supervisors, managers and executive assistants. Few of us are universally talented. It is more important to create a team that wins through working together than to mandate that all jobs with similar titles are carbon copies.
  2. Shorten Improvement Cycles. If you’ve got a direct report that has a weakness that you can’t build out of her position (for example, a manager who can’t delegate), give her a limited amount of focused attention to make the improvement. In general, if she can’t start making demonstrable progress in a one to three month period, she is not worth spending additional time on. Great sports coaches move quickly when they determine that a player’s aptitude is insufficient for a given role. Remember that “Catalytic” means speeding the pace of significant change. In business, time is money. Repurposing or replacing usually beat rewiring.
  3. Focus on Strengths. Do your homework to determine what people are good at. Things they have a competitive advantage at. Identify activities that give them energy. Knowing someone’s weaknesses is valuable information for selection and placement decisions. If they’re not tall enough, fast enough, agile enough (in other words, a poor match for the position), consider making a change. If you’re going to coach them where they’re at, however, the key is to take what they’re good at and make it better. Do that and someday the Gallup Poll researchers will be writing stories about you.


About the Author of The Weakness Trap:

Garold Markle is author of Catalytic Coaching: The End of the Performance Review and No More Performance Evaluations! Gary is also founder and CEO of Energage, Inc. For more of his teachings go to www.energage.com.

This article was first published in Catalytic Connection in August of 2009. Copyright 2009 by Energage, Inc. Reprinted with permission of Garold L. Markle, glmarkle@energage.com.

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Comments (0) Mar 01 2010

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Sell Like the Celebrity Salesman

By Paul Johnson

1,085 words. Abstract: Billy Mays is dead, but his simple selling system lives on. Employ the single difference that made this pitchman a millionaire.

The late Billy Mays could teach us all a few things about selling. We saw him on TV infomercials selling OxiClean, Mighty Putty, the Awesome Auger, and more. Billy Mays made millions of dollars because he understood how to Bally the Tip, Nod Them In, the importance of The Turn, and the Chill-Down. Do you?

Billy Mays was proud to call himself a pitchman. He understood who bought his products, and why. Vince Offer is another well-known pitchman, and he’s cleaning up selling his ShamWow chamois cloths. These pitchmen are truly celebrity salesmen, known on sight and, often, by just the sounds of their voices. While we may consider them corny, pushy hucksters whose style we would never want to duplicate, most of us would be happy to duplicate their results, at least where dollar signs are involved.

Uncommonly Simple
Their simple selling system can help us all sell more products, more services, and even more of our ideas. Most salespeople are much less effective than these celebrity salesmen. These pitchmen sell more, and they sell faster. You’ll never reach celebrity salesman (or saleswoman) status unless you’re prepared to do one thing.

Sales people think preparation means learning all about the product. They think preparation means learning the sales process inside and out. They think it means doing research on their prospect, and choosing in advance what questions they want to ask. While celebrity salesmen do all these things, too, they do one more thing; they prepare to lead.

Billy Mays learned on the Atlantic City Boardwalk that buyers want to be lead. From the moment pitchmen like Billy Mays open their mouths, they make sure you understand he’s talking to YOU, that he understands the problems you have and, most importantly, he has the perfect solution. When you feel like you are understood, you place more confidence in the salesperson, and you are more willing to trust them to lead you to a successful conclusion, which we call the sale.

Whether it’s firing a flaming fastball or performing the perfect pirouette, professionals execute the seemingly simple with ease. Celebrity salesmen like Vince Offer use a simple system to sell, and they make it look easy. I encourage you to try their simple system, but don’t be surprised if you find it hard to do it well.

1. Bally the Tip
Bally means gather, and Tip refers to a crowd or audience, so Bally the Tip means gather the crowd. Why did Billy Mays seem like he was shouting at you? To get your attention and create a sense of urgency so that you would turn away from whatever it was you were doing. But volume is not enough. That first sentence has got to draw you in, much like the headline on the front page of a newspaper. It’s got to relate to you on a personal level so you want to hear what comes next.

To maintain the Tip, a pitchman has to create interest. He does this with ease because he understands who the customers for his product are so very well that he makes you feel like he’s speaking directly to you. “Have you ever tried to remove ugly mildew stains from your shower walls, only to give up in frustration many wasted hours later?” He understands your pain, and you pray that he brings relief.

2. Nod Them In
When the pitchman asks a question like the one above, he expects to see people nodding their heads. He asks still more questions that hit the crowd right where they live. The frequency and intensity of the nodding rises, and the crowd draws closer to him. Each question not only improves the pitchman’s credibility, but also intensifies desire for the solution.

Often two other techniques are used to heighten desire. Creating a sense of scarcity creates a sense of urgency. Wouldn’t it be terrible if your hesitancy to buy forced you to leave with your problem unsolved and your needs unfulfilled? You better buy NOW before they run out! There’s no time to “think it over.”

The second technique is to use testimonials. If other people are obviously having success with the product, it stands to reason you will, too. Then the herd mentality will take over and a feeding frenzy can begin.

3. The Turn
Now it’s time to ask the Tip for their money. Celebrity salesmen make it clear what they’re selling, but the Tip does not want the product. What they want is to be lead by the pitchman to the answer, and the pitchman reveals the minor investment for the perfect solution. But wait. . .  there’s more! Bonuses push the perceived value even higher, and people are now waiving $20 bills in the air and yelling, “Do ME, do ME!”

4. The Chill-Down
It’s time for action. The celebrity salesman has asked for the order, and it’s time to clean up. The Chill-Down is about completing transactions and fulfilling orders as fast and cleanly as possible so nobody leaves empty handed. Everybody goes away excited and happy, and the celebrity salesman is ready to do it again.

But wait… there’s more! If you’d like to take a deeper dive and learn more about the world of pitchmen like Billy Mays, you’ll enjoy listening to this podcast and related transcript titled, “Pitch Perfect”.

Get the Lead Out
Professional pitchmen make it look easy, but they’ve already worked hard to do the research on the market and craft their presentation into a light, tight, efficient package. Then they test it, tweak it, and deliver it over and over, reworking it to get the dead weight out until the results more than justify their investment in preparation. Celebrity salesmen can make more sales in 10 minutes than most salespeople make all week.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your customer wants to lead during the buy/sell interchange. In reality, most buyers want to be led to a solution with speed, ease and confidence. To join the ranks of celebrity salesmen, you’ll need to assume the customer wants to be led unless they clearly indicate otherwise.

While you may never be hawking products on TV or the Atlantic City Boardwalk, there’s no reason you can’t learn from professional pitchmen and become a celebrity salesman (or saleswoman) within your industry. When that happens, I’m sure you’ll be happy to clean up.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results LLC collects business shortcuts and shows people how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Learn how to become a niche marketing expert at http://NicheExpert.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When have you witnessed an amazing performance by a professional pitchman or pitchwoman, and what made it amazing?

Posted: under Gaining Commitment (Sales).
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Comments (0) Jul 01 2009

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Teach Your Website to Master One Trick

By Paul Johnson

1,111 words. Abstract: Creating the perfect website can be tricky. Fortunately, you can teach a website one trick that will enable you to reach your goals quicker and easier than ever before.

Your website should do one thing really well. Do you know what that is?

Perhaps you own a Swiss Army knife. A marvel of engineering, this clever device packs an array of indispensable tools into a compact and convenient shape that can easily be carried in a pocket. In addition to a sharp and sturdy knife, it’s comforting to know we can also access a screwdriver, corkscrew or can opener at a moment’s notice.

Then why don’t you have several dozen lining the silverware drawers in your kitchen? Instead, your drawers are probably filled like mine with tools suited for specialty jobs. Butter knives, steak knives, the bread knife. Soup spoons, slotted spoons and a ladle. I admit, I’m pretty much a one-fork — the dinner fork — kind of guy, but my wife makes us keep dessert forks in the drawer for when company comes over.

Flexible Failures
Our kitchens are proof that we endorse the notion of having the right tool for each job. However, we tend to view our website as the Swiss Army knife. After all, websites are incredibly flexible. We can easily add pages and adjust navigation links to create a boundless array that can accommodate anything. Got a white paper? Put it on the website. Need to take a survey? Use the Web site. Did you just distribute a press release? Post that to the website, too.

Perhaps the users of your website — your potential customers — aren’t as impressed with it as you are. When you fail to quickly give visitors what they need from your website, you fail to establish valuable relationships with potential customers.

Goal Focus
Your company may be capable of solving many problems for your customers, and that’s a good thing. However, when a person initiates a web search, they only have one problem on their mind. It’s possible they even have a solution in mind, with some idea of which attributes that solution should have. If their problem is they don’t have a carving knife for the holiday turkey, they don’t want to wade past your corkscrews and can openers to find that. Confused customers don’t buy.

The value in the Swiss Army knife’s flexibility is negated by its lack of focus. While we marvel at the ingenuity of the combination tool, the reality is that we as users prefer the “one-trick ponies” and keep carving knives, can openers and #2 Phillips screwdrivers handy to help us get the real work done.

Suicide Gag
I’m in a convenience store watching a youngster at the soda station fill his glass by putting in small amounts from eight different spigots. I ask him, “What have you got there?” He says, “It’s called a Suicide.” I grab a glass, thinking I’ll give it try. One taste and I understand why it’s called a Suicide. I nearly gag.

You may think your Suicide Website is refreshing and satisfying while your customers may be gagging on it. Consider specializing with several “single-flavor” websites.

Confusion Solution
When you look at your website through your visitors’ eyes and see confusion and frustration, perhaps it’s time to consider multiple One-Trick Websites. Using multiple websites gives you an opportunity to trade-in flexibility for focus. Each website can now focus on one pain/solution set based on a common goal or topic that your visitors desire. Sticking with one topic per website allows you to quickly establish:
•    Relevance
•    Understanding of the visitor’s problem
•    Credibility
•    Expertise
•    Focused specialization
•    Experience

These One-Trick Websites benefit your visitors by allowing them to accomplish what they came for without distraction. Bob Scheinfeld of Ultimate Lifestyle Academy calls these TOT sites; TOT stands for The One Thing. You’re focused message makes it easier for prospects to decide to engage with you because we all feel more comfortable using specialists.

If a doctor buddy told you he did Lasik surgery, performed a nose job and did a knee replacement yesterday, you would wonder how good the results would be. Even if he did the three procedures perfectly, we would prefer to believe three specialists could have done them better.

One-Trick Training
To get started with a One-Trick Website, consider the elements of this three-step strategy:

1.  What’s their problem? Get a clear understanding of what pain your customer is trying to eliminate, and what solutions they may already have in mind. Use tools like Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery, and Google’s External Keyword Tool to get an idea of what customers are already searching for on the Web. Better yet, talk to some customers and conduct a survey to discover how people with this problem talk about and describe it so you can use their words in your marketing copy.

2.  What’s your goal? When visitors come to your website, what can you reasonably expect them to do? You may want to design the site to include multiple selling paths to support visitors dealing with different stages of the problem. For instance, for those doing preliminary research your goal may be to get them to download a helpful white paper and give you their email address. For those that have a more pressing need, your selling path may lead them to an on-line transaction via your shopping cart.

3.  What is relevant? Content on your site is a good thing as long as it’s relevant to the topic of the problem your visitor came to solve. For instance, if they came for dress shoes, then laces and polish may also be relevant. Guitars need strings and straps. In addition, your content might include pages for things such as:
•    Credibility
•    Support channels
•    Options
•    Policies and promises
•    Relevant resources, such as how-to guides and manuals

You do want a deep site as long as you stay true to a common problem or topic.

Finders Keepers
Another advantage to creating a One-Trick Website with a single pain/solution set is that it’s easier to rank well in the search engines for relevant terms. If your website is all about carving knives, it’s relatively easy to rank well for turkey carving equipment, turkey carving supplies and turkey carving techniques.

While your corporate website may be your Swiss Army knife for customers who already know you and love you, you’ll likely benefit from having additional One-Trick Websites where each website does one thing really well. Never forget that flexibility can dilute effectiveness. Decide what each of your One-Trick Websites should enable your customers to do, and then help them do that and nothing else. When you help customers cut to the chase, you’ll quickly master the trick of developing valuable new customer relationships.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results LLC collects business shortcuts and shows people how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Learn how to become a niche marketing expert at http://NicheExpert.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: How has a website you’ve visited confused and frustrated you?

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).
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Comments (0) May 01 2009