Larry Lewis

Tuesday, 30 August 2005 12:11

More than just convenience

Teleworking is more than just another fringe benefit to offer employees. It’s becoming a competitive advantage. Many companies are rethinking their benefits and compensation packages at the demand of workers, offering flexible work styles as an important means of retaining high-value employees. As of 2004, more than half of the nation’s work force of 110 million was categorized as remote and mobile. Nearly 20 percent of these telecommuters live in California, which has five of the top ten most traffic-gridlocked cities in the nation. CIO’s must be able to deliver information access to workers wherever they are, across any network, through any connection, to any type of computing device — and at the same time, they must guarantee the security of that information wherever it goes.

Why? Because increased mobility is probably the single most important factor leading to better customer-relationship management. Even if you don’t have employees telecommuting, supporting mobile network access has benefits. For example, mobility allows health care providers to access patient information from the bedside to ensure more accurate record keeping and improved overall health care. By making information more instantly, easily and securely available to mobile workers, companies improve both the lifestyle of workers and the immediacy of services they provide to customers.

But how can an organization’s IT staff quickly, securely and reliably deliver business information to a diverse and distributed work force? Thin-client technology is one IT solution strategy that has been embraced by organizations across all markets. Thin-client technology refers to IT solutions that operate on centralized or network-based resources. Specific products, such as the Citrix Access Suite, will unify key access points, capabilities and technologies into a single solution, allowing teleworkers to get vital information from anywhere, with any device, over any network.

Some organizations are particularly interested in bringing the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market the ability to support a mobile work force. In fact, many small businesses start with a thin-client design. They cannot afford to expend precious capital on brick and mortar - with zero return. But they also do not have the IT expertise on staff to implement mobile worker/thin-client technology themselves. So applications, data backups and even IP phone communications can be supported from a series of geographically dispersed data centers. Amortizing the cost of the solution across multiple companies makes this outsourcing model very attractive and offers another SMB capital preservation strategy.

Ease of Internet access across various platforms (laptops, PDAs and now cell phones) further supports the teleworker model. While some factors make Internet access more challenging (screen size, for example), over time these issues will be addressed.

Security becomes more of an issue as wireless access proliferates over more platforms. The thin-client delivery model supports 128 bit encryption and SSL certification in an inherently secure delivery model.

Thin-client computing has long delivered value in centralizing the application management and administration effort. The added benefit of easily supporting a teleworker business model furthers the argument for such a strategy. And companies will continue to develop outsourcing models to give SMBs access to the benefits of a mobile work force. This trend will continue, like quality and service before, and develop into an expectation of both employees and customers alike.

Mark Lewis is vice president of small business solutions for Indianapolis-based Lantech of America, which was named Microsoft’s Small Business Partner of the Year in 2004 for its hosted SMB solution. Data and voice solutions are delivered under the brand name enChord. Contact Lewis at (317) 872-8844 or http://www.enChord.net

I hate sending literature. Whenever a prospect asks me to send literature, it seems I never get the appointment. What is the best way to respond to a request for literature?

I would avoid sending literature unless it's absolutely necessary. Nobody buys a product or service based on the literature alone. Oftentimes, a request for literature is really just a put-off. Unfortunately, many sales representatives mistake this for genuine interest.

The first step in dealing with a request for literature is to ascertain whether the prospect is for real or just trying to get rid of your rep. I do this by making the following statement: "I'd be happy to send you literature, but I have to tell you-most of the time when people ask me for literature, they're really not interested in what we do. The last thing you need is one more piece of literature to clutter up your office. If you're not really interested, I'm OK with that."

If the prospect is genuinely interested, your sales rep still shouldn't send it. Instead, your sales rep should use your literature as a pretense for uncovering his or her true needs and concerns. The best way I've seen this handled is what one of my clients does.

In response to a request for literature, my client says, "I'd love to, but I'm not sure what to send you. I have four different sets of literature-one for clients who have problem A, another for problem B, a different set for problem C and yet another for problem D. Which one should I send you?"

If the prospect selects problem B, my client simply responds, "That's interesting. Why did you pick that one?" Now your sales representative is off and running with questions that will lead you to getting an appointment.


I have several sales representatives who consistently fail to reach their sales targets. As a manager, what should I be doing?

Whenever managing sales representatives, you should focus on their behavior instead of their results. Behavior is the controllable activity that your sales reps should be performing on a consistent basis. Break the larger goal into quarterly segments, outline the behavior needed to achieve each of those smaller goals or benchmarks, and begin monitoring this activity.

You cannot manage anything that you cannot control. Your salespeople cannot control whether a particular prospect needs, wants or can afford the product or service they are selling, or whether a customer needs to reorder at any given time. What they can control is whether they call on the prospects and customers. If you manage the activity, the results will take care of themselves, provided that the sales reps are using a system for selling.

To ensure that your sales reps are using a system and not simply making social visits when calling on prospects, use a checklist of informational items that need to be covered at each step in the selling process-and the small agreements that must be made along the way to achieve a successful outcome.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send your comments and questions to Larry Lewis via fax at (724) 933-9112 or e-mail to llewis@totaldevelopment.com. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:05

Marketing Matters

When it comes to selling, I have always believed that the more proposals I put out, the better. However, I have an awful lot of proposals on the street, and I've closed only a few. What should I do to?

I know it sounds crazy, but you should go back to those prospects that have your proposals and ask them to give them back to you. Then you should ask your prospects for permission to close their file. You will be amazed at what happens.

It may sound simplistic, but the secret to closing sales lies in getting your prospects to tell you "no." Great salespeople get an awful lot of "nos." However, in going for the "no," they get an awful lot of "yeses."

What you don't want are think-it-overs. Eliminate the think-it-overs, and you'll blow through quotas faster than a Jerry Rice punt return. Here's how to do it: Tell your prospects up front that it's OK to say "no" and then push for it. Many salespeople push a prospect toward saying "yes." We've all heard the line: "What's it going to take for you to buy from me today? " Or the ubiquitous "If I can show you a way to...will you buy from me?"

In pushing for a "yes," the traditional salesperson makes prospects feel like they are being "sold," and they naturally resist. Tell your prospects up front that, at some point, they will need to make a decision. Obviously, a decision to buy would be wonderful, but a "no" is also OK. The only thing that you can't tolerate is a "think-it-over," and that if they feel like thinking it over, they should simply tell you "no."

Once you have this agreement, push for the "no."

In going for the "no," one of two things will happen. Prospects that aren't really interested in buying your product or service will admit that it's over, thereby freeing up your time to spend with prospects that are truly interested. Prospects that are interested but aren't convinced enough to buy yet will not want you to go away. In going for the "no," you will shake out the hidden obstacles and uncover the real issues that will enable you to help the prospects determine whether they should buy from you. The best part is that the prospects will never feel threatened or manipulated into doing something they don't want to do.

As a sales manager, my biggest challenge is finding people who are strong "closers." Do you have any advice on how to ascertain these qualities in advance of hiring them?

Two hidden weaknesses often prevent salespeople from being able to "close"on a consistent basis. The first weakness is "high need for approval." When sales representatives have a high need for approval, their desire to be liked outweighs their desire for getting the business. As a result, they avoid rejection at all costs and will not bring a selling event to closure for fear that they will not win the business-or a prospect's approval.

The other weakness is a nonsupportive buy cycle. Only decision-makers can get other people to make decisions. A nonsupportive buy cycle refers to the manner in which the salespeople personally make their own buying decisions.

We all tend to project our own values and beliefs on the people with whom we interact It's human nature. Therefore, salespeople who are unwilling to make significant purchases without seeking the advice of other people, checking out the competition, or "sleeping on" their decisions, will have a difficult time getting prospects to make a decision without doing those things.

In other words, their own buying behavior does not support their interest in getting prospects to make a decision. When faced with prospects who want to "think-it-over," the salespeople with nonsupportive buy cycles will subconsciously acquiesce because, if they were the prospect, they would want to think it over as well. As a result, they will not take the steps necessary to bring the sales process to closure. Both of these weaknesses can be uncovered in the employment interview by an astute interviewer, or through the use of a pre-employment screening test. SBN

Larry Lewis is the president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send your comments and questions to Lewis via fax at (724)933-9112 or e-mail at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:47

A productive 2000

What’s waiting for you in 2000? The answer, of course, is that it’s up to you. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself to help make 2000 the most productive year of your life.

1. Do you have a cause?

Are you in business just to satisfy your personal needs? Is this just a way to make a living? Or is there a bigger reason to get up in the morning?

Facing the daily rigors of selling needs more than an “I-centered” reason for showing up. Write down your reason for doing what you’re doing. Paste it on your bathroom mirror as a daily reminder.

2. Have you burned your bridges?

You can’t get to second base by keeping one foot on first. Have you committed yourself to your profession? If you have, then it really doesn’t matter how difficult any particular day or prospect is.

Focusing on the result makes it all worth it. Can you see where you will be at year-end?

3. Have you put together your business plan?

Having a business plan makes it perfectly clear what you have to do on a day-to-day basis. Not having a plan is like being a squirrel in a cage. It looks like you are on a fast track, but you’re going nowhere.

Each prospect, every call — no matter how successful — has a reason. One day on top of another — well thought out and planned — must result in a successful outcome.

4. Do you have four major goals for 2000?

If you work your plan, what’s in it for you? Have you put together a personal plan of action that will guarantee your reaching the four most important goals you would like to accomplish in 2000?

Have you reduced these goals to pictures to visualize the result? Have you placed them where you can see them on a daily basis?

5. Can you muster the discipline to manage your behavior daily?

One day at a time. Now that you have put your business and personal plan together, will you do what is necessary each day? Do you realize that every day you don’t behave properly puts you a day behind?

Determine the number of days in 2000 in which you must behave properly to meet your goals. Write that number down. Count the days down backward and strike a line through each day where you behave according to plan.

Post this chart where you can see it daily so that you will develop a behavior awareness.

6. How will you stay in front of your “nut?”

Financial pressure is a cancer in your drive for success. Do you know what it costs you to get up each morning?

Total all your expenses, including savings, and the cost of all your achievable goals in 2000 and divide by 365 days — or by the number of working days available to you next year. Most people don’t know their daily cost number — just like most people don’t have written, clarified goals.

Have you figured out how to get off to a fast start to get a financial “cushion?” Have you budgeted your expenses so they don’t run over you? Do you have a savings plan? Have you planned on how to put money aside in case of an emergency?

7. Will you begin over again each day or do you have a system for working smart?

Amateur sales people pride themselves on the number of cold calls they make. Professionals know the best source for their next sale is from a present client.

Do you have a referral system? Are you going the extra miles for your present clients so they want to give you referrals? Do you keep a referral tree?

8. Do you keep a journal?

Successful people learn as much from their mistakes as they do from their successes. Do you document your wins and losses? Do you refer back to them on a consistent basis to benefit from your experiences?

Do you keep a record of the things that work and don’t work for you? Will you be able to write a book on 2000 when the year is over?

9. Do you have a mastermind group?

Have you searched out a support group to help you reach your goals? Do you have the guts to commit to someone else exactly what you want to achieve in 2000?

Are you willing to give as much as you want to your mastermind group?

10. Can you see into the future?

Take time to write out a description of how you will feel and what you will have accomplished when you have achieved the things you want for yourself and your family in 2000.

Capture that feeling. Internalize it. Think about it every day.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224, e-mail at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com or phone at (724) 933-9110.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:41

Oh, the problems ...

I sell a product to industrial accounts which they must use. But many of them already purchase it from somebody else, which means I have to steal them away from my competition to get the business. However, when I call prospects and ask if they are having problems with their current supplier, they always tell me no. How can I get in to see these people?

If you were to ask 20 prospects whether they have “any problems” in the area in which you can help, 19 will tell you “no.” They do have problems, they just won’t admit it to you.

At the very least, they can’t articulate these problems in a meaningful way without your help. You need to develop a set of “hot buttons” to start a conversation.

Hot buttons are the needs and concerns of the people you call on that will get a conversation started. Your goal: to find your prospect’s pain. Hot buttons aren’t always easy to identify, but they are critical. You’ll use them when making cold calls, working tradeshows, describing yourself in a networking setting and in the initial stages of a face-to-face sales meeting.

In essence, they are the problems and frustrations you solve for your clients. From a different angle, they are the potential gains you can help them realize.

The purpose is to jog your prospects’ memories and get them talking so that you can ascertain whether you can help them. Do they have a problem you can fix or do they even qualify as prospects? Without these hot buttons, you can’t start the pain-gathering process that will lead prospects to buy, except in those rare circumstances in which they come to you. Therefore, this is where you need to start.

Imagine your best customer before he met you. It’s the end of the day, and he is having a cup of coffee or a beer with his best friend who does the same thing he does in another part of the company. They are discussing the challenges and frustrations they face in relation to the products and services you sell. One says to the other, “I wish I could find a way to solve (list the problem here). How are you handling it?” Or, “I’m frustrated by (list problem here). Have you ever looked at this before?”

What are they saying within the blank? If you can’t answer, ask your existing customers why they were receptive to talking with you about your products or services in the first place. What was the catalyst that caused them to look for the solution you provided? The answers are your hot buttons.

When you call next time, instead of asking prospects if they have any problems, incorporate your hot buttons into a statement such as: “Mr. Prospect, I don’t know if you share any of these concerns, but typically when I talk with company presidents like yourself in successful companies like yours, they tell me that, despite their success, they are frustrated or concerned about: hot button No. 1, hot button No. 2 or hot button No. 3. I don’t suppose you share any of those concerns?”

If you’ve done your research, the prospects will say they do.

Now you can simply sit back and ask them to talk about these issues to the point where you can ask this question: “The things you are telling me are issues we deal with all the time. Would it make sense for you to invite me in to talk about it in further detail?”

Now when you show up, you can arrive with the confidence of knowing that you were actually invited in with a pre-established agenda.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send him your comments and questions via fax at (724) 933-9224 or e-mail him at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:33

'What do they know?'

What is the best way to handle a prospect's objections?

Traditionally, salespeople have been taught that objections are good and that they often represent a buying signal or mean that a prospect is interested. Questions are often buying signals, but objections certainly are not.

Objections represent obstacles that the prospect must overcome before a sale can be made. Prospects must overcome their own objections. You can only facilitate in this process. You cannot do it for them.

Too often, I see sales reps counter an objection with an argument that makes a great deal of sense to the rep. However, prospects are often unmoved by the salesperson's explanation. In fact, the salesperson's counterargument often makes them that much more emphatic in their support of the objection, which is clearly the opposite of what the salesperson wants.

The better tactic is to first nurture prospects and validate their feelings and concerns without necessarily admitting the truth of the objections. The next step is to reverse -- ask a question in response to the prospects' objection to get them to come up with a solution they feel comfortable with.

Once I had a prospect who was dismayed by the fact that my consulting fees were twice as much as those of a competitor. When confronted by this objection, I was tempted to overcome it by explaining how my consulting and the training that came with it were superior. However, had I done this, I would have elicited a debate that would have been difficult to win.

Instead, I acknowledged his concern and showed empathy. I then asked him why he thought my training was more expensive, and he suggested that my training program and the methodology I used were superior. I politely agreed.

Then he suggested it was possible that my competitor was less experienced. I told him that he might be right. He also suggested that this guy needed the business more than I did and was willing to negotiate. Every time he came up with an explanation that made sense, I reinforced it.

I could have given him the same explanation, but he would have been far less likely to agree. Because he came up with answers to his own objections, he was far more comfortable with the conclusion.

Whose ideas do we tend to like more? Someone else's or our own? We always like our own ideas better. The salesperson is responsible for helping prospects come up with their own reasons for doing what we want them to do without putting words in their mouth. It takes skill and patience, but the results are always better this way.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a resource for companies that want to increase sales at higher margins. Send comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224 or check out his Web site at www.totaldevelopment.com. Lewis can be reached by phone at (877) 933-9110.

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 13:07

Trouble with consultants

More and more consultants have become involved in the buying process. It seems they always want the absolute lowest price, but then often want a lot of technical help as well. How should I handle this?

Consultants are becoming a fact of life. Companies often retain the services of a consultant to help them put together a project and buy at the best prices.

Some companies I work with deal with consultants who seek to acquire their consultative expertise for free, then put the project out for bid. Therein lies the rub. It's virtually impossible for a company to provide valuable expertise and still offer the lowest price. So the company that gives a consultant free help often finds itself losing business to the low bidder.

The answer is not to avoid working with consultants altogether, but to treat them as another sales channel. Focus on selling consultants in advance of the project they're working on. This means selling them the same way you'd sell to a distributor or dealer of your products and services.

Consultants have different needs and concerns than end users, including being able to provide a good product that will satisfy their customer needs with the fewest number of complaints. They need to know the companies they recommend are reliable and live up to their promises.

A consultant who wants your technical help but won't give you a commitment in exchange is looking for a free ride. Of course, we never want to ask a consultant to compromise integrity in recommending you. The real issue is to determine from consultants what they need to see or hear from you to feel comfortable that your company is best suited for the job before you provide the help they are seeking.

Consultants who believe you are the best choice are not compromising their integrity by recommending you. Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Reach via fax at (724) 933-9224, at www.totaldevelopment.com or by phone at (877) 933-9110.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:07

Marketing Matters

Q. I sell a product that is used by contractors. Typically the contractor will call me for a quote that he can use in preparing his bid. However, once the contract is awarded, he puts my product out to bid, and I am forced to compete on price. How should I handle this?

A. The next time the contractor asks you for a quote, ask him up-front what’s going to happen in the event he gets the contract. Will you automatically get the business at the price you’ve quoted, or will it go out to bid?

If he tells you that you will get the work, make sure it’s understood that the work will be at the price you quoted. In fact, I would be leery of this response and check his answer with a statement similar to the following:

“I appreciate that, but I have this fear. You probably wouldn’t do this, but a lot of times when I’m dealing with other contractors who request my help in responding to a bid, they come back to me and ask me to lower my price once they get the job. If I’m not willing to lower my price and someone else will, does that mean I will lose the business?”

If he tells you that he’s going to have to put your part of the contract out for bid or shop it around to whoever offers the best price, simply hold up a mirror to his face (figuratively) and gently ask him this question:

“Bill, I’d really love to do business with you, but I’m not sure I understand what you’re telling me. Let me see if I understand. You want me to help you get this contract by putting together a proposal for this part of the project, but if you get the job and somebody else is willing to sell you these items for 10 percent less, she is going to get the business instead of me?”

Bringing to light the ridiculousness of this situation is usually enough to get them to agree to give you the work, but not always. If he insists on putting it out for bid, I would nicely suggest that he get a quote from the other guy and, if the contractor gets the job, you’ll be happy to beat the other guy’s price. At least this way, if you have to cut your price to get the business, you won’t be helping the competition or wasting your own time on “unpaid consulting.”


Q. I have a lot of inexperienced sales representatives on my staff. What can I do to get them to perform at a higher level of competency?

A. Contrary to the popular myth, successful sales reps are made, not born. My answer may sound simplistic and self-serving, but I think you need to provide them with the right training. I think it’s amazing that we hand new sales reps a briefcase full of literature and expect them to succeed with little training outside of product knowledge.

The experience of a friend of mine aptly illustrates this point. Upon graduating from college, he decided to pursue a career in sales. His two roommates had decided to become professionals, with one planning to be a dentist and the other planning to practice law. On the day before their graduation, the three were discussing their plans following graduation.

My friend asked the roommate who had decided on dentistry where he was planning to go to dental school. He then asked the future lawyer what law school he was planning to attend.

The lawyer and dentist then turned to my friend and jokingly asked: “So, where are you going to buy your briefcase?”

Selling requires the same degree of professionalism as any of the traditional professions. You cannot expect to achieve a higher level of competence without providing training in the strategies, techniques and psychology of selling, in addition to product knowledge.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send your comments and questions to Larry Lewis via fax at (724)933-9112 or e-mail at ltlewis@totaldevelopment.com. He can be reached by phone at (724)933-9110.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:59

The great lie

I am sick and tired of having prospects mislead me into believing they are interested in my products, only to string me along. Why won’t they simply tell me the truth?

The problem you describe is one that many sales reps face. In fact, if you thought about it, I imagine that even you have misled salespeople on a few occasions. Most people believe lying to a salesperson is okay.

Prospects generally lie to salespeople for one of three reasons. Some lie because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. It’s the same scenario as when you’re standing at the doorstep at the end of a rather unexciting blind date. You’re afraid to tell your date you never intend to see him or her again, so you lie and say something like, “I’ll call you.”

Others lie because they’re afraid if they tell a salesperson it’s over, the trained salesperson will pour on the pressure. Most of us have experienced some form of that when buying a new car or talking to a salesperson about a home water purification system. The truth is that it’s easier to get rid of a salesperson by telling him you’re interested than telling him you’re not. While the optimistic, misguided salesperson runs off to prepare a proposal, the prospect can go into hiding behind receptionists and voice mail.

Finally, some prospects lie because they want information, most often in the form of a proposal or free advice on how to address a specific problem. Armed with this information, the prospects can solve their problems on their own, shop for a better price or drive a better deal out of their existing providers.

The expertise salespeople bring to the table is valuable. Prospects want this information, they just don’t want to pay for it. I refer to this dilemma as “unpaid consulting.”

Regardless of the prospects’ motive for misleading you, it’s your fault for not taking control. You can’t blame the prospects for doing something you failed to tell them they couldn’t do. Quit giving proposals without getting a commitment that they will give you a firm decision one way or another, with a clear understanding of what “yes” means.

More important, tell prospects up front that it’s okay to say no. Explain you would love to have them as customers, but if they aren’t comfortable saying yes, you will happily accept a no and, with their permission, close their files. Oh, and by the way, if they need to think about it, you’re going to have to assume there really isn’t a good fit and you will take that as a no.

Don’t be arrogant. Don’t be tough. Be sincere and nurturing, but firm. The wrong tone will sound like sour grapes. Help them to help you end it.

When it’s time for prospects to give you a decision, don’t back down and accept a think-it-over. If they try to give you something other than a yes or no, remind them of your prior agreement and confirm again that it’s okay to say no. One of two things will happen: they will actually tell you no or you will get to the truth of why they are hesitating. If you get a no, accept it.

The fact is, while most salespeople say they would like to hear the truth, they actually avoid it when they think the answer might be no. Crazy as it sounds, many salespeople would rather hang on to a familiar prospect long after a deal is dead rather than pursue a stranger who might actually buy.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send him your comments and questions via fax at (724)933-9224 or e-mail him at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.

I’ve often been told you should never knock your competition, but what if the prospect himself brings it up? How can I pass up an opportunity like that?

When you hear your competition falling down on the job, it is tempting to want to tell everyone on your prospect list. Most salespeople agree that you shouldn’t knock the competition, but somehow, salespeople keep doing it and even get dragged into it by an unsatisfied customer.

Think about how you feel when a salesperson tells you about his competitors’ poor service. What happens inside your head? Most of the time, we question the integrity and the credibility of the salesperson, not the competition he is knocking.

If you’ve done business with the competitors before, you may even find yourself defending them and the decision you made to use them in the first place. You think to yourself, “Why is this guy telling me this? Hey, I’ve done business with the competition before, and they weren’t as bad as this salesperson is saying.”

When you start talking negatively about your competitors, your prospect will naturally start to think about their positive attributes.

The secret to amplifying your prospect’s discontent, while maintaining your credibility, is through assumptive questioning. When questioning your prospects about their dissatisfaction, you need to assume that the competition is as professional as you would be in the same situation to fan the flames of the prospects’ discontent.

Suppose your prospect says he’s unhappy with the fact that your competition mistakenly sent him the wrong part. Our tendency would be to roll our eyes and say something like, “I hear they do that all the time.”

Instead, go the other way with something like this: “That’s surprising, because I’ve always thought they were very conscientious. When they discovered the mistake, I’m sure they sent their design engineer to fix the problem.”

Chances are, they didn’t correct the problem or your prospect wouldn’t still be upset. At this point, your prospect will continue to complain, amplifying his discontent. At the same time, you’ve planted the seed in his head (without looking like you were bragging) that you would have handled the mistake very differently. But, whatever you do, don’t knock the competition.

My sales reps with the worst closing ratios seem to be the ones who have the most industry experience and the best knowledge of our products. How do I explain this?

Many experienced salespeople are extremely anxious to tell their prospects about their products and services. Yet they often leave a sales call bewildered as to why they didn’t get an order. You’ll here them say, “I answered all of their questions and told them every reason why they should buy, but nothing happened?”

From the time we are small children, we are conditioned to have the right answers and to deliver those answers when asked. Experienced salespeople often engage in the adult version of “Show & Tell.” If your salespeople are dropping off information, proposals or marketing materials, or trying to impress their prospects with their wealth of knowledge and industry expertise without really understanding their buying motives, they are spilling their candy in the lobby.

Once prospects have your information and pricing, they don’t think they need the salesperson anymore. The salesperson’s leverage is gone and he or she has lost the opportunity to help the prospects uncover the underlying reasons they should buy.

Salespeople must learn to question a prospect’s motive for asking for information before they provide the answers. Why a prospect asks for information is more important than what they ask. Prospects aren’t entitled to a salesperson’s information until the salesperson fully understands their buying motives, their budget money and how they make decisions.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send him your comments and questions via fax to (724)933-9224 or e-mail him at dissatisfied@totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.

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