• Top RainToday Content of 2014

    By Michelle Davidson

    When it comes to selling, salespeople walk a fine line between saying too much about themselves (their solutions and their business) and not saying enough. A misstep in either direction, and the prospect will say, "Thank you—bye."

    The key is providing just enough information to hold their interest and demonstrate value without sounding self-centered—or without giving away so much that the buyer thinks he can do the work himself.

    Looking at the top RainToday content from 2014, its clear readers wanted help achieving that. They wanted to know how to stay on the line to sales success—from initial conversations to negotiation talks and beyond. Specifically, they were drawn to these articles and podcast:

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  • 3 Things You Must Do when Giving Sales Presentations

    By Michelle Davidson

    Patricia FrippIt's been weeks of back and forth with the prospect—telephone calls, emails, perhaps even text messages. And you finally got the meeting. It's time to present.

    What should you do to make sure the meeting is a success? Below are a few ideas from speech coach Patricia Fripp, who presented a webinar Dec. 16 titled How to Give Your Sales Presentation a Competitive Edge.

    They might sound like no-brainers, but you'd be surprised at how many people don't do them. And as a result, they don't make the sale.

    1. Prepare: Do your pre-work and practice. The worst offenders in this area are actually experienced sales professionals, Fripp says. They really know their products, their services, and the companies. But they wing their presentation, and the result is a disaster.

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  • Take a Step Back and Look at the Big Picture

    By Michelle Davidson

    Look at the big pictureSometimes we get bogged down in the minutia. We focus on every metric, we see only what's happening right in front of us, and we don't notice buyer behavior.

    A laser-sharp focus is great for accomplishing a task. But if you can't see the forest for the trees, you could miss opportunities, spend energy on unimportant things, or unwittingly damage a sale. Sometimes you need to step back and look at the big picture. Here are some examples of when doing that is beneficial:

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  • Making the Best Use of Your Time

    By Michelle Davidson

    Time ManagementAs the end of the year quickly approaches, there's no doubt you feel overwhelmed by all that you need to do before it arrives. Not only do you have deadlines at work, but you also have your kid's holiday concert, parties you agreed to attend, gifts you need to buy, and everything else that goes with the holidays. And that's in addition to the many other things you do regularly.

    The "most wonderful time of the year" might not feel so wonderful.

    If ever there were a time to prioritize, it is now. I can't help you with your holiday obligations, but I can offer some advice to help you make the best use of your work time.

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  • The Human Side of Selling

    By Michelle Davidson

    Customer RelationshipWhen you think about your buyers as a collective, often they become a bunch of nameless, faceless beings you must pursue, persuade, and close. You might also slip into auto-pilot and treat each one the same—run them through the same process you've been told to follow.

    You know, however, each one is different and that people buy things, not companies. Not only that, but you know people buy from people they like and trust. The key is remembering that when you get busy and worried about making sales.

    As we head into Thanksgiving weekend in the United States, I thought I'd share some advice from sales professionals to help you humanize your sales practices. These tips will help you improve relationships with clients, win more sales, and even help eliminate that perception of being a sleazy salesperson.

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  • Do You Work Well with Others?

    By Michelle Davidson

    Teamwork"Works well with others."

    Teachers everywhere have written that standard comment on children's report cards for what seems like forever. Job applicants often say it about themselves during job interviews. Supervisors want that quality in employees. And customers seek that in the businesses they hire.

    It's a worthy trait. The problem is the phrase is so generic and overused that it has lost its value. When you hear it, chance are you sigh and think, "Really? Do you think you could give me some details?"

    That being said, how can you demonstrate you are a team player and work well with others? Here are some examples:

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  • It's About Helping, Not Just Selling

    By Michelle Davidson

    It's About Helping, Not Just SellingThe ultimate goal is to sell your products and services. For without sales, you have no business. That doesn't mean you should be a selfish, say-anything-to-get-the-deal salesperson. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

    When you consider buyers' and partners' needs, provide value, and help them, you will gain more: buyers' trust, loyalty, and referrals—to name a few things. It's about being helpful and giving.

    But it needs to be the right about of help. Too little, and buyers won't see the value you offer. Too much, and you won't get the fees you deserve.

    "It's a delicate balance between helping future clients and giving away the farm," writes Vickie K. Sullivan in her article 3 Things to Give Away in Every Sales Conversation. "By focusing on the journey, the crossroads and the decisions, you can help buyers make the right move. You create value without giving the solutions. You can be generous without hurting yourself."

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  • Think Before You Speak

    By Michelle Davidson

    Think Before You SpeakSay something abruptly, and people will think you're rude. Talk just about you, and people with think you're self-centered. Continually criticize an employee's work and not offer constructive help, well, you know what they'll think of you.

    It all boils down to communication, and thinking before you speak (or write). You might have good reason for saying things, but you need to think about how your listeners will react to what you say and word things in a way that delivers the best result.

    This applies when talking with prospective clients during your initial meeting, when delivering a presentation to a potential client, and when trying to get your staff to do something.

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  • 2 Little-Known LinkedIn Features to Help with Sales

    By Michelle Davidson

    Kevin KneblLinkedIn, with its 300 million users, is probably the most effective social media network for professionals. Long known for its employment opportunities, the social network has evolved into a powerful sales tool.

    The problem is, most people don't take advantage of all LinkedIn has to offer. They might create a profile, but leave out important information (like how to contact them). They might complete their profile, but not use keywords to help them show up in search results. They might ask to join people's networks, but not customize the messages and cause recipients to immediately disregard the request.

    Not only that, but it's an evolving platform and if you don't change your LinkedIn-using habits, you could miss out on key new features.

    "There are a lot of things on LinkedIn that most people are not aware of because most people don't take a little bit of time on a daily basis to stay up to date and to stay current on the [platform]," says Kevin Knebl in a recent interview.

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  • The Softer Side of Sales

    By Michelle Davidson

    Relationships in salesWhen your schedule is packed, deadlines are looming, and your goals are falling short, you may find yourself in a driven, "I need to get things done" mode. That no-nonsense approach is great for getting things accomplished. (No procrastinating for you!)

    But it can affect your correspondence and interactions with prospects and clients. A brusque approach can cause you to sound uncaring, unsympathetic, and selfish—exactly what you don't want customers to perceive you as. You might also push too hard for a sale, which will also cause buyers to turn away.

    You need to show customers your softer side—the side that empathizes, is curious, asks questions, offers advice, and works to develop a relationship with buyers. For it's growing and maintaining strong relationships that will lead to sales and referrals.

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