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Coaching Tool Review: Refract

I’m often asked to recommend a tool managers can use to coach inside sales reps based on actual calls and demos. One such tool is Refract. After receiving a thorough demo, I recommend Refract be included on your list for exploring potential fit. In addition to the basics, here are the strong points that jumped out for me:

Transcribe Voice to Text / Jump from Text to Voice

I start here because Refract offers an impressive set of features in this area. I won’t list all of them because each user is likely to find different features valuable. That said, there are less well-known reasons why these features can be valuable and I’ve covered these near the end of the review.

Conducive for Longer Sales Calls and Demos

Though a manager can certainly listen through entire calls or demos, a number of Refract’s features allow us to essentially scan the call or demo for key words or phrases. The manager can then jump to that portion of the call to dig in a bit more. (more…)

Fine Tunes for Benefit Statements

Benefit statements are a staple of sales and customer service. This article focuses on some of the nuances, including tips for teaching others to create their own benefit statements.

Reminder: There are myriad ways to express benefits but they fall into just six categories: convenience, save money, increase money or value, peace of mind, appeal to image, fun/enjoyment. (See this article for more refresher.)

Features Usually Come in Sets

We tend to start with the product/service, identify its features, and build benefit statements for each feature. This is an excellent way to learn the skill; however, feature-and-benefit, feature-and-benefit… can backfire in real life. To illustrate: (more…)

How to Add Power to Benefit Statements

Features and benefits: a sales and service basic, right? Yes, expressing benefits is a fundamental skill but that doesn’t mean pros don’t need refreshers. Here’s a mini-lecture on why working on benefit statements is a good idea:

There are now more opportunities for expressing benefits. We’re communicating via text and chat and email and webinar and social media, as well as on the phone and in person. Repeatedly using the same benefit statements makes them flat and ineffective.

Benefits can get fuzzier as we keep up with lingo changes. “Interventions” become “solutions” and even morph into “disruption.” As we alter our language, we can forget not just how to express the actual benefit, but how to identify it in the first place. For example: We’ve provided solutions to business owners for twenty years. Okay, twenty years is the feature – easy peazy. Now tell me, what’s a benefit of all that experience?

Mini-lecture over. Here’s the refresher. (more…)

Consultants: How to Sell Confidently and Comfortably

Consultants often have trouble with selling. The process feels awkward, the skills seem undesirable, results are poor — this can snowball and affect consultants’ confidence in their own expertise. The good news is most consultants already have what’s needed to sell more confidently, comfortably, and successfully. This article covers four common challenges and how consultants can overcome them.

Challenge #1: Apparently, None of the Other Consultants Have to Sell

Consultants often hear peers say things like “I get all my clients through referral.” The underlying message is consultants who do not get their clients that way are failing and should work harder at getting business via referral. This, my darlings, is a load of crap. However, I want to focus on how that misinformation can create problems when we do have a referral. (more…)

Communicate: Are You Sending the Right Message?

Ah, communication! We want to communicate clearly and effectively…but we can inadvertently send the wrong message. Here are common words and phrases that can trip us up. I’ll start with “just” and “actually” because using them purposely does not cause problems — using them as a verbal habit does.

“Just”

We use the word “just” to communicate emphasis, as in “I just don’t know about this deal!” We also use it to soften, as in “I’m sorry, we just don’t have any openings right now.” In both of these situations, we use the word purposely to send a specific message.

However, many of us toss “just” in often and without realizing it. If we’ve got this verbal habit and use telemarketing, that tiny word easily undermines success because it communicates a very different message on the phone. In cold calling land, prospects hear the word “just” as meaning “only.” To understand why this creates problems, take a look at this example:

“I’m just calling to thank you for your business.” (more…)

Do You Suffer from Quarter-end Choke?

It’s mid-March, mid-June, mid-September, or worst of all: late November. Your sales numbers are not where you want them to be. Hot prospects have cooled off. Your manager is pushing like mad. You feel like your brain and confidence are crawling through thick mud.

That, my friends, is supposedly a choke, to which I say baloney! To understand why it’s baloney, and how to avoid the situation, we have to start with the origins of a “choke.”

The Origin of “Choking Up” in Sales and Why it Matters

Like many other sales performance concepts, to “choke” comes straight from sports. The idea is you’re competing in a game. The score is close, you (or your team) are behind or ahead by just a little bit. What’s key to the concept is there’s no sense of an inevitable win or loss, instead, there’s pressure surrounding the game. To “choke” is to be so nervous under that pressure your performance suffers and you lose.

What does that have to do with selling? Good salespeople supposedly thrive under pressure. That’s true. However, there are all kinds of pressure, which leads us to why the origin of this particular pressure (sports) matters.

That there are many other sales concepts which come from sports does not overcome this singular fact: selling is not a sport. Embracing that reality is step one in handling the challenge of trouble at quarter-end. (more…)

Comprehensive Marketing and Selling

sell-the-sameOrganizations often say they want a comprehensive or consistent approach to marketing and selling. Their various business groups often say they need something unique. Here’s a look at which things should be the same—and which should not.

Use the Same Basic Definitions

An organization that speaks the same language has good communication and consistent expectations—which feed strong performance. Language involved with ‘marketing’ and ‘selling’ should start with which is which. Here are definitions that fit no matter the department or how simple or complex the products and services:

  • Marketing is the stuff we do proactively to gain prospects’ attention, and regain customers’ attention. Marketing tools include advertising, email, mail, calling, social media (to name just a handful).

Marketing also includes responding to inquiries from prospects and customers. This includes responding when someone calls us, emails us, or walks in and asks for information.

  • Selling begins once the prospect or customer has agreed to discuss the fit between what they want and what we have to offer. Selling does not begin unless and until we have that agreement. This is true even when someone has approached us: just because they’ve got questions, that doesn’t mean we have that agreement.

Why Agreement is the Best Line

No matter how sophisticated or simple the products and services, an assumptive approach generates problems. Using agreement as the gate means employees need to ask for a sales conversation, which helps prevent assumption from the start. (more…)

Rating Prospects: Selling

Rating SystemHow likely is this deal to close? What percentage would you attach to that? What does the pipeline look like?

Rating prospects helps you project new business and highlights where you should focus your efforts. Unfortunately, many rating systems and CRM pipeline features don’t really help you do that. Here are common approaches that don’t work well — and what to do instead. (more…)

Busting the Buyers Journey Baloney

Business fulfills each and every one of themInstead of simply busting this “buyer’s journey” silliness I’d like to honor the man who equipped me to do that, and pass a bit of what he taught on. (Myth busted below.)

About 36 years ago, after putting it off as long as possible, I entered Professor Keston’s classroom to begin a year of required statistics. A year! Tried to sit in back but those seats were already taken by other psych-major-math-phobes. With dread in my heart, I took a seat near the front. By the time I successfully passed the final I was forever changed. (more…)

Yo! It’s a Sales Poetry Slam

Sales poetry slamFew people are aware that Rod Mckuen, Emily Dickinson and Theodor Geisel were in sales before they hit it big as poets. Let’s honor their hidden legacy — and have some fun — with a sales poetry slam. Be it in iambic pentameter, haiku, limerick or free verse, add your own using the comments.

Haiku

Oh, silent prospect
You beguile with nothingness
I should let go now

 

Faux-RFP Blues

These prospects like me, of that I’m sure
But not so certain their motives are pure
They’ve answered my questions
Needs, wants, interests, and more
And given full attention when I had the floor
But things became hazy when budget arose
Is this truly about change
Or showing their current what I proposed?

 

How to Change the Inquiry

Tug of war A call, chat or email comes in. Prospect asks, “Do you have…?” or “How much?”

We think, it depends and we offer so much more. We think, we prefer strategic relationships or sell on price, lose on price. In other words, we want to have a different conversation than the prospect does. Here are tips for doing that, starting with some things to avoid. (more…)

Don’t Guess — Qualify

Qualifying“Qualifying” is how you figure out how hot of a prospect you’ve got. Using it wisely prevents frustration and highlights your best opportunities. But it’s not all about you; qualifying also helps develop strong business rapport with prospects and paves the way for a great business relationship.

A truly hot, fully-qualified prospect is one that:

  • Has need or want for what you’re selling, and sets a high priority on meeting those needs or wants
  • The timing is right
  • They have control over existing adequate budget or the ability to create budget to buy
  • They are in control of the decision or heavily involved in the decision
  • Last but definitely not least: they are reasonable

(more…)

Tips for Using the Rating System

Read “Rating Prospects” first. Otherwise these tips will make no sense. (more…)

The Consultative Sales Framework

Today’s sales environment calls for a consultative approach. I teach people how to use this Framework to prepare for and conduct successful sales conversations. Many other articles reference this Framework.  (Please see the note below about copyright and usage.)

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How to Hold Great Meetings

Meetings can be a colossal waste of time. Here are tips for avoiding that, especially for sales and service team meetings held on a regular basis. (more…)

Is that Fire in Your Belly, or Lunch?

Dear Shawn:

I didn’t get a sales job I really wanted. In the interview, my potential boss said he was looking for people with a fire in their belly. I think in my answer I blew it. How could I have shown him that I have that fire?

Shawn says: (more…)

Selling versus Marketing

A Definition: Selling versus Marketing

Many people use “marketing” as a euphemism for selling but they’re really two different things. Understanding the difference helps set appropriate expectations, which helps prevent frustration. Understanding the difference also helps focus your efforts. Last but not least, understanding the difference prevents behaviors that send prospects running in the other direction. (more…)