• The Fine Line between Trusted Advisor and Annoying Salesperson

    By Michelle Davidson

    Walk the lineWhen selling and marketing your services and your business, it might feel like you're walking a narrow line between being perceived as a trusted advisor and a pushy, even desperate, salesperson. One misstep—even if that misstep was an accident—can push you over the line. And before you know it, there goes the sale.

    What can you do? You're excited about your services, and you want to help people. But if you push too hard, buyers will walk. That medium ground involves doing things that assure prospects you can be trusted and "that you have their best interests at heart," says Colleen Stanley in her article Are You a Trusted Advisor or a Typical Salesperson?

    Two things on the top of her list are seeking the truth and telling the truth. Seeking the truth involves finding the root of the buyer's problem. You must ask questions and really listen to what the buyer says. Don't wait for cues to jump in and give your spiel. Uncover their true needs, then offer a solution.

    If it turns out you don't have the expertise or resources to help solve their problem, tell them so.

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  • How Salespeople Are Like Artists

    By Michelle Davidson

    Woman with a Blue Hat, Pablo Picasso, 1938
    Woman with a Blue Hat,
    Pablo Picasso                                                

    I know many people who put down abstract artists—artists such as Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cézanne.

    They say things such as: Anyone can do what they do. It's just paint splatter. It's just a bunch of squiggles. People are not made out of cubes. No woman ever looks like that with her eyes off level and her nose huge.

    And they sound so annoyed and disgusted by the work from those artists.

    The truth is before artists can create abstract art, they must master the fine skills of painting and drawing. (If you look at Picasso's earlier work, such as The Old Fisherman, you will clearly see his talent for depicting the human figure.) Once artists have those skills, then they can express themselves via abstract techniques—sometimes breaking the rules they were taught.

    The same applies to all arts: writing, dance, photography, music, etc.

    Not only that, but it also applies to sales and marketing. You need certain skills to succeed. But you also need to build on those skills, have the right mindset, and develop a nuanced approach.

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  • There Are No Secrets or Tricks in Marketing and Sales

    By Michelle Davidson

    No quick fix buttomEveryone is looking for the "secret," the "trick," the "one thing," and so on that will make their lives easier. Whether it's losing weight, looking younger, getting more Twitter followers, or generating more leads, we'd all love to have a quick and easy way to make it happen.

    The truth is the Easy button does not exist (sorry, Staples). There are no secrets or tricks. Everything takes time and effort. Everything is a process.

    And sometimes the thing that's needed to achieve a goal is ignored. Consider marketing professional services. People know they should focus their efforts on specific markets with a targeted set of services, but they don't, writes Michael W. McLaughlin in his article The 'Secret' of Professional Services Marketing.

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  • When a Buyer Loses Interest

    By Michelle Davidson

    You're in a meeting with a prospect. It starts out great. They are friendly, they listen attentively, they answer your questions, and they ask you a few questions.

    But then as you explain your solution's features, share some statistics, and talk about how your service helped a similar company, you notice one of the people on the buying team shaking his head. Not long after that, another person on the team looks at her watch and another pulls out his phone to check his messages.

    You've lost them. They don't care, and they don't want to hear any more.

    More than likely your gut is telling you to get out of that situation—and get out of there as fast as you can. Run! Some people would—they'd cave to their addiction for comfort and leave the uncomfortable situation as soon as possible. And they would lose the sale.

    If you face your discomfort, however, and stop the presentation to address their actions ("Jim, you don't seem to agree with those statistics. Have you heard something different?"), you can uncover the source of their problem, keep the conversation going, and work toward the sale.

    The key to handling this type of uncomfortable situation is to decide how you're going to handle it before it happens, says Jeff Shore in his podcast interview How to Build Your 'Boldness Muscle' and Win More Sales.

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  • Sales Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

    By Michelle Davidson

    Oops"And bad mistakes ‒ I've made a few." —Queen, "We Are the Champions"

    We all make mistakes. We say something that we think is helpful (to a prospect, client, or even a spouse), and it backfires. Or we act selfishly (I have a quota, goal, revenue target, etc. to meet), and the short-term gain causes us long-term benefits.

    Mistakes are human nature—even the pros make them. It's how you handle those mistakes that matters. You can deny it happened, ignore it, hang on to it and make yourself miserable, or learn from it and try to not let it happen again.

    You might even be making mistakes unknowingly. Your brain (and sometimes your gut) tells you what you're doing is right, but in reality you should be doing the opposite.

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  • Buyers Want to Know: How Can You Add Insight?

    By Michelle Davidson

    John Doerr, What It Takes to Sell with Insight"What do you know about my business, and how can you add insight?"

    That's a question more and more prospects are asking of salespeople and professionals involved in business development. Buyers these days know all about you, your company, and your services thanks to the plethora of information available on the Internet. Some people are so diligent they find information about you that you didn't think was publicly available.

    That means when they contact you or agree to meet with you, you must provide something more. And that something is insight, says John Doerr, co-author of Insight Selling and president of RAIN Group, which has researched extensively what buyers want from salespeople.

    "One of the things with our research is what separates the top salespeople—the ones who won—from the ones who came in second place. … And the top two, according to the buyers we talked with, were provided new ideas and insights and collaborated with me," Doerr says.

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  • What You Know Matters As Much As the Things You Do

    By Michelle Davidson

    Ideas equal moneyI'm a list maker. I love making my lists and crossing things off them. In my team meetings, being able to tick off the things I've accomplished or I'm working on gives me a sense of accomplishment.

    I do lots of things that don't lead to crossing something off my list, though. I'm sure that's the case for many of you with your client work. Yes, you have projects for which you have certain tasks to complete and goals to achieve. Those are the things you do for your client.

    You provide more than that, however. You also provide knowledge, insight, and advice to clients. Those things are worth as much as the things you do—cross off on your list—and you should be paid for them, says Michael J. Katz in his article Get Paid for What You Know, As Well As What You Do.

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  • Get Clients Buying, Not Just Talking

    By Michelle Davidson

    Exciting Stuff!Earlier this week Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developer's Conference '14, announcing OS X Yosemite, iOS 8, and Apple's HomeKit that will enable you to use your iPhone to control household devices.

    "Siri, open the garage door, please."

    (That sounds a lot like 2001: A Space Odyssey, doesn't it? "Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL." But I digress.)

    Within minutes the Internet was buzzing with news of the announcements.

    Buzz is fun and exciting. It gets people's imagination running and conversations flowing. If it's really big (like Apple's), it starts trending on Twitter and Facebook, makes it onto the evening news, and has late-night talk show hosts cracking jokes about it.

    But buzz doesn't necessarily translate into sales. I'm a loyal Apple user, so the new operating systems will be a natural progression for me. The HomeKit, though? As cool as it sounds, I will pass.

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  • Stop Winging It and Start Planning It

    By Michelle Davidson

    What's Your Plan?"What's the plan, Stan?"

    I've been saying that to my daughter a lot lately, trying to get her to organize her approach to things—whether it's doing homework, taking her final exams, getting a summer job, or getting together with friends.

    As mom, I want to know where she's going and what she's doing. But I also know having a plan is the best way to accomplish things, especially big or daunting projects. Breaking them down into their parts and devising a strategy for each not only helps you better cope with the enormity of the project, but it gives you better overall results.

    Whether you're meeting with a prospect or implementing a new marketing tactic, you need a strategy.

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  • How Agile Selling Leads to Greater Sales Success

    By Michelle Davidson

    Agile Selling by Jill KonrathRecently I had a chance to talk with Jill Konrath, author of newly released book, Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today's Ever-Changing Sales World. She also wrote two previous bestsellers: SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies.

    Now, Jill is back with a whole new take on sales that stresses the need for agility—a word that isn't used frequently in the sales or business development arena.


    Jill, what is agile selling? Can you give us a definition?
    Jill Konrath: Agile selling is about being nimble in the face of continuous change. It's about being able to adapt quickly to new market dynamics, rapidly launching new products or services, and getting up to speed quickly in a new position.

    Agile selling is also about turning yourself into the primary differentiator—a person your prospects and customers want to work with because you personally bring so much value to the relationship.

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