Sales Managers are often nervous of kicking off yet another dry sales meeting. Here’s some ideas that recent participants have shared for adding an element of discussion and debate at sales meetings.
Topics marked * are great for getting people talking and sharing ideas – get a flipchart or whiteboard ready to capture ideas or have a stack of Post-It notes ready to stick on the wall.
- Discussion of results against targets
- * How can we use teamwork to sell more
- Discussion of costs against budget
- * How can we reduce sales expenses/costs
- Discussion on product prices
- * How can we get better prices/reduce give-aways
- Planning selling time
- * Planning to improve prospecting for new customers
- * How to plan for more effective territory coverage
- Pre-planning calls on buyers and non-buyers
- The purpose and value of company paperwork
- The importance of keeping adequate customer records
- Writing more creative and helpful reports
- * How could we simplify company processes
- * How to sell the full range of products/services
- Using current advertising to support sales presentations
- * New products needed to ‘plug holes’ in current range
- Selective selling: setting product priorities
- * How to find and attack competitors’ strongholds
- * Comparing the product range with competitors
- Discussing future plans for major exhibitions
- * Possible advantages of holding in-company exhibitions
- * How to develop and use Case Histories
- Re-opening dormant accounts (except bad payers)
- How to identify slow payers in advance
- * The best way to ask for money owing to us
- Individual self-analysis to improve effectiveness
- Individual team members’ plans for own self-development
- Individuals to give summary of book read about selling
- * Additional group training needed to improve effectiveness
- Making appointments by telephone
- The best ways to improve email management
- Getting beyond email communication
- Difficult types of buyer and how to handle them
- How to deal with ‘I’ve never heard of your company’
- * Best methods of introducing company and products
- How to capture attention from start of meetings
- Questions to develop the customer’s interest
- Using your website to support the sale
- * Ideas to improve the company LinkedIn profile
- Painting word pictures which increase need
- Questions which encourage buyer to discuss needs
- * Translating product features into benefits
- Benefits: How to present capital or revenue savings
- How to demonstrate a product
- * Developing a survey check-list: getting the facts
- Overcoming customer objections and resistances
- * Developing best answers to the most frequent objections
- Techniques for closing the sale
- * How to select the most appropriate close to use
- Handling complaints about products: quality, etc
- Handling complaints about service: deliveries, etc
- * How to reduce customer complaints
- Effective presentation of proposals
- * How we could improve company proposals
- Negotiation techniques: exchanging concessions
- * Listing concessions which buyers usually try to get
- * Listing concessions we can make which are not too costly
- Making more effective customer presentations
- * Individual role-plays on product presentations
- Introduction of Customer Care programme
- * How to improve customer relationships
- ‘Professionalism in Selling’
- ‘Good Human Relations in Selling’
- ‘Developing a Reasoned Logical Approach to Selling’
- *The Power of Enthusiasm in Selling’
- ‘The Development of a ‘Service’ Attitude to Customers’
- ‘How to Sell a Service’
- ‘Eliminating Negative Language and Attitudes from Selling’
- ‘Influencing with Integrity’
- ‘The Best Sale I ever made’
- ‘The Most Difficult Sale I ever made’
- ‘The Greatest Selling Mistake I ever made’
- ‘My Recipe for Selling Success’
- Invite speakers from other departments in the company
- Invite outside speakers or buyers from business/industry
- Hold Brains Trust meeting with colleagues and outsiders present
- Organise revision and quiz on specific product knowledge (with prizes)
- Select individual salesperson to organise/administer meeting
- Select individual salesperson to chair meeting (with manager present)
- What’s on the agenda for our next sales meeting
What would you add?
Using What Others Bring To The Situation
Influencing is commonly thought to centre on “my agenda and getting what I want”. However, the whole picture suggests that just using this approach, even if done skilfully and competently, can often leave others feeling unimportant, undervalued and unwilling to compromise.
These three key behaviours:
- Active listening
- Discovering with questions
are all designed to help you focus on the other person’s agenda, what is important or critical to them and to help you build relationships. The purpose of all 3 is to make the other person feel valued and to generate trust and rapport, which will pave the way for a mutually beneficial influencing relationship.
What is key to the success in using supportive behaviours is that you genuinely believe that the other person has value – even if you don’t agree with their views. It never works to just “bolt on” these behaviours in order to give the impression you are other-focused. Genuineness is key and a lack of it will “leak out” eventually.
Another success factor is the ability to “park” your own agenda temporarily. As with a lack of genuineness, any lurking signs of your own agenda when using these behaviours can have quite a negative impact.
What it is
Many of us think we are good at listening. We have been trained to nod in the right places and to grunt periodically to show that we are listening. How many of us though would admit that we really have our own agenda and are just waiting for a moment or pause when we can inject our own pearl of wisdom! This makes us feel good and acceptable. We seem to need to reassure ourselves that we still have something to say.
Another weakness with traditional listening is that we may well have been trained to listen against an agenda of questions, looking for key words that help us lead the speaker along our chosen path towards our chosen goal. This is very common in sales situations.
Active listening is about suspending your own agenda and focusing on the other person to understand their position and to demonstrate that you are doing so. It is about building trust.
Good listeners give full attention to the speaker, noticing things about them – the way they talk, their mannerisms, their energy.
The Important Components For Good Listening:
Give your full attention to the speaker and use appropriate acknowledging body language (head movements and hands, posture).
Reflect key words, phrases and themes back to the speaker using their own words where possible. This shows that you have picked up important themes and encourages the speaker to continue. For example:
“So what you’re saying is ……”
Reflect any emotion that appears to be coming through such as joy, pride, frustration and disappointment. For example:
“You sound disappointed by that ……” “From what you say, it was a moment of great happiness for you ……”
Summarise your understanding periodically. This keeps you on track, avoids any misunderstandings and encourages the speaker to carry on. Be careful not to do this too often or to leave it too long between summaries. For example:
“Can I check my understanding here ……?” “From what you have said, you ……” “Allow me to summarise for a moment. It will help me understand ……”
If you sense there is permission and the climate is right, you can interpret what the speaker has said helping them clarify their thinking. For example:
“Based on what you have said, it sounds as if you did the right thing ……”
This is not your view, but merely a plausible conclusion/interpretation of the facts.
Discovering With Questions
What It Is
This behaviour is about deepening your understanding of another person’s position through allowing and encouraging another person to open up and reveal more information and emotion.
Contrary to some ‘process training’, this is not about having a list of questions to tick off once they have been asked so that you can get the facts in order to impose a view, contradict or sell a product. Nor is it the same type of questioning as interviewing against competence criteria.
Discovering is about following a specific area of interest that has been revealed by the speaker as far as they give permission. It is about making them feel at ease to the point where they feel liberated sufficiently to talk and help you discover more. This behaviour builds bridges and earns the right to offer opinions, but first I will seek to understand you.
Some Guidelines To Follow:
Notice areas of interest for the speaker and acknowledge these. “You seem to be excited about that. Tell me more about it ……”
Use non-threatening questions such as:
“Tell me about”, “What happened?”, “When did?”, “Is there anything else you want to say about ……?”, “Which is more important to you ……?”
Avoid using the “Why?” question as it can be experienced as judgmental and threatening. For example:
“Why … on earth did you do that?”
Do not jump around from issue to issue, but note things that you sense could be important to pursue and enter them into the conversation as appropriate. For example:
“Earlier you mentioned that it had been a difficult decision for you and your team. Is there anything you would want to add about that to help me understand it better?”
Avoid quick fire questions one after the other that could be experienced as an interrogation. Match your pace as explorer/discoverer with that of the speaker.
Try to resist jumping to conclusions and solving problems immediately. The motive for discovering is simply that – to discover and not to input. If you disagree with something or have a view, wait for the appropriate moment, ie when the climate is receptive, to input your thoughts. For example:
“I have appreciated your explanation and I think I understand better where you are coming from now. Allow me to summarise my understanding …… I’m not sure I agree fully with your view and would like to suggest a different approach.”
Discovering should be an enjoyable experience for both parties. It should feel releasing!
Watch out for your views leaking out through your questions!
What It Is
Confident and competent influencers are open to influence themselves, recognising that they don’t have to defeat to win. They are secure in their identity and self-esteem which means that they are happy to pursue understanding others in order to build bridges over which influence can travel.
One way of doing this is through affirming. This follows on naturally from active listening and discovering and is about building positively on others’ views and suggestions. It is about acknowledging your value and giving you significance, sincerely, through praise, positive feedback, encouragement and support.
Most of us would acknowledge that we are motivated to respond when we are given credit, often for little things as well as big things.
Effective affirming behaviour is also about offering constructive critique and challenge as appropriate. For example:
“Your suggestion is a good one. I am especially interested in …… On the surface I can see that we could build on that. One thing you might want to bear in mind is the implications of……”
This behaviour is also about me offering you opportunities to add value and inviting your contribution. For example:
“Your earlier suggestions were very helpful. I sense you may have something else to add here. Perhaps you could share with us your insight on ……”
It may be just as simple as thanking someone for their input or contribution.
Using What You Bring To The Situation
In some influencing situations, what we call “your agenda” will be paramount. Your agenda means everything that you bring to the situation, which is important to you:
- your thoughts, views, ideas, proposals
- your feelings about the issue
- what you want or need to happen.
To maximise your chances of success requires the clear, open, honest and direct use of the three key ASSERTIVE BEHAVIOURS:
- Persuading with reasons
- Expressing feelings
- Making requests
Use of these three behaviours should leave the other person in no doubt as to where you stand and what is important to you. It is important, however, to keep your body language, words and voice all congruent and assertive or the impact may come across as aggressive, regardless of your intent.
Persuading With Reason
What It Is
An ability to bring about change through persuasion is vital in meetings, negotiations and many other work place situations. This style originates in the “head” as it is logical, unemotional and calm.
It requires you to be clear in your mind about what you are going to say and why. This style, as with influence behaviours, requires thought before speech. A well thought through and delivered proposition or argument is often difficult to ignore. The aim is to put forward your ideas and suggestions with a sense of commitment and reason so that they are taken seriously.
Preparation is important. Deciding on sufficient reasons and structuring them so that they have the right impact will make a significant difference between “limp” suggestions and those that are credible. Too many reasons and the message will be lost. Not enough and there will be no weight. Three is a good number with the most important one first.
Being confident and succinct is important with this behaviour.
It is worth being aware that many of us tend to use this style via a question “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if ……?” “Does anybody think we should ……?”. This generally means that you think it would be a good idea! So say so!
What It Is
Many of us find it difficult to disclose emotion to others. Too often, we retreat behind our view or stating what we want.
Feelings are something we are often taught to suppress. This can result in uncontrolled outbursts at inappropriate times or stress caused by bottling up unacknowledged feelings.
However, in many circumstances it can prove highly influential to reveal how we are feeling in order to move the situation forward. However, I need to feel OK about myself and be secure in my self-esteem to do this. It is also important to distinguish between using feelings to influence and using them to dump, punish someone or as a cathartic release!
We can use influential feelings to bring about change and also to reinforce someone’s behaviour to get them to do more of it!
Feelings come from the heart. They are owned and personal. They cannot be denied or challenged easily.
If we use our feelings to influence the situation we do it to get a response, to have an impact. Too much use of this behaviour may mean we are experienced as aggressive, so caution is important. Timing is everything. It may be appropriate to introduce a feeling into a volatile situation, it may be better to wait and convey it privately to an individual. On the other hand, a positive emotion expressed in public can have remarkable impact and elicit buy in.
This behaviour can be effective when linked with making requests, for example “Right now I feel frustrated because we are not making progress in this meeting so I would like us to stick to the agenda from now on”.
What It Is
Assertive behaviour results from a genuine respect for oneself and others. We should aim to feel OK about ourselves, valuing what we can contribute and not needing to win or defeat someone else.
Asking for what I want and need is a strong assertive behaviour. It is rooted firmly in accepting that I’m OK and have the right to ask for things/responses from others. Not because they are wrong or I need to prove a point, but because I want to communicate something and would like the other person to understand my agenda. This behaviour originates from the “gut” – from deep within. Unlike persuading, this behaviour does not require the backup of reasons – just your conviction that you want it enough!
Some people find this behaviour difficult because it contradicts early childhood messages. Nonetheless, effective influencers use this behaviour successfully and appropriately. Excessive use could be interpreted as aggression.
This involves setting limits for yourself and accepting that you have the right to say “no”. If you avoid this, you may build up resentment and develop manipulative ways of saying “no”. When you are asked for something consider your “gut” reaction. Ask for more information or time if needed – clearly and unambiguously. If you feel the need to, admit that you are uncomfortable in saying “no”, but do not put yourself down in the process. If appropriate, give a reason and offer an alternative. Remember you are saying “no” to the request not rejecting the person! Being able to say “no” positively and assertively is a key behaviour in effective influence.
When people think of brands it’s not long before they get to Coca-Cola as an example of one that has taken over the world. This little film gives you a potted history of the development of the brand, including the dark, dark days of “New Coke” (you’ll be surprised how few days that disaster lasted) and the iconic Santa, polar bears and truck that fix Coca-Cola in many people’s minds as a must-buy for Christmas, even if they never drink the stuff themselves.
Where Coca-Cola brand development is concerned prepare to have your emotions toyed with, with no attempt at subtlety.
The number of people attending is an important consideration when organising a meeting. Too many people and the meeting is likely to take far too long, too few people and commitment from interested parties not attending may not be forthcoming.
As a general rule, up to eight is ideal. It is worth considering whether all members need to attend for the whole meeting, particularly where numbers are high. Where some people need to attend parts of the meeting the agenda should be organised to accommodate this unless doing this would adversely affect the structure of the meeting.
Other tactics can be employed e.g., setting up sub-meetings prior to the main meeting to address some items in advance so that only one member of this group needs to come to the main meeting.
To ensure involvement and possibly avoid any unpleasant surprises, chat to each member individually prior to the meeting. This will provide useful insights and also they may be willing to raise points at the meeting thus ensuring shared responsibility
Most meetings go on too long. Two hours is about as long as normal concentration will allow. Meetings planned for a longer duration should include a break for refreshment and fresh air.
Even formally chaired meetings work more effectively in equal status arrangements e.g., no desk, members seated in a circle, importantly no interruption by calls, emails and texts.
When the purpose, time, location, duration and members of the meeting have been established, think about the pre-meeting paperwork. The agenda, which is the key document, and any reports, papers etc that members will be expected to read should be circulated two to three days beforehand indicating any pre-meeting action to be taken.
Brief agendas do not necessarily create brief meetings, in fact the opposite is often the case. Imprecise agenda points only serve to confuse or mislead, resulting in unprepared members. The more precise agenda items are, the more items can be covered because everyone is prepared, ready to respond and act.
Use a Structure like PAT and SATT below
Purpose – What is the purpose of the meeting?
Agenda – What issues do we need to cover?
Time – What are the start and finish times?
Summary – Gain consensus while everyone is there on the joint understanding of what has been agreed or decided upon.
Action – Who is doing what and by when? Get assignments put into diaries and schedules not just “To Do Lists.”
Tell – Who else do we need to tell? What is the “best” way? Who is going to do it and by when?
Time – Of the next meeting or communication to the group so progress is monitored and shared. Plan and schedule the work and the event now while everyone is together.
Before you call or attend your next meeting have a quick glance through this checklist. Can you answer the questions? Are you happy with the answers? You might be surprised at how much time and money you can save by only attending well designed, well chaired meetings.
- Why are we holding this meeting?
- Will the output of the meeting equate to three times it cost in terms of salaries of those involved?
- Would some other method of communication be as effective?
- What specifically do we wish to discuss?
- What is the background to the meeting?
- What are the terms of reference?
- Will we cover each agenda point in depth or will some be over-viewed?
- Can all information be divulged to everyone?
- Do we have all the information we require?
- Are all the members available and qualified?
- Will the size of the group be appropriate?
- Do we have sufficient time?
- What specifically do we wish to achieve?
- How will we measure our success?
- What is our minimum criteria for success?
- What else could we achieve?
- What are the constraints?
Marketing isn’t just another name for:
- Common sense
Many companies who attempt to embrace marketing often make one of the following mistakes:
Sales Department Marketing
The Sales Manager adds or changes his/her job title to include the word marketing. The actions taken are usually to do with price and discounting, but ignore product/service decisions, value, quality, etc. They forget customer needs.
Art Department Marketing
The company bolts on a specialised department to look after marketing. It usually ends up looking at sales promotion ideas and improvements in the post-sale Customer Service area.
Marketing as control. Analysis of data, lots of discussion about the theory of marketing. Specialises in 20/20 hindsight decisions, always knowing why it went wrong or didn’t work after the fact.
All decisions are taken based on a tight definition of short-term financial return. R & D, product development, long planning tends not to happen.
These approaches suggest that REAL marketing has four key features:
- Starting with the customer
- Having a longer perspective
- Using all the company’s resources
A few of the team have been working in Amsterdam over the last week. We’ve been having fun and making new friends, even if the work hours mean not getting to see much of the city.
We’ve resisted creating work for everyone’s favourite new employee at Schiphol Airport, even though it’s tempting. If only the efforts of all hard working customer service employees were greeted with such delight.
English is a global language, you can hear it spoken all over the world, just as you can hear global languages spoken all over England, and Wales and Scotland, as well as those swathes of the globe that count English as their official language. Unlike French, which has a committee to decide which words are allowed to be French, and languages where a group of academics and “custodians” get together to decide on an official new word to describe something new, like “the internet” which generally has an English name already, there’s no one body that invents English words.
The language is flexible, adaptable and democratic. This little film explains it all, yet doesn’t mention Spanglish, oddly, nor does it point out that English isn’t listed as an official language of the law courts in the United Kingdom. Bonus points if you know what the only official language of the UK courts is.
Post Season baseball is coming, and to get everyone in the mood TBS commissioned a commercial for the final highlight of the US baseball season. Brian Cranston appears, explaining his one man stage show, a work of love for baseball and an acting tour de force.
Sadly it’s just a spoof, there’s no one man show coming to London or Broadway, but we’d certainly go see the show, just buy us some peanuts and Cracker Jack. Even if you don’t love baseball, Brian Cranston’s talent lights up this little film.
Eat ‘em up Tigers.