What do you think impacts your chances of closing deals? Approach, customer situation, the environment, and many others. In Shane Gibson's article, How Intent Can Empower Your Sales Conversations, Gibson writes "very few things influence the level of one person's success over the other more than the quality of conversations they have with future and existing customers." Gibson argues that too often we teach salespeople what to say when we should be guiding their thinking to focus on having great conversations. We need to learn how to be good conversationalists.

Of the many components found in being a great conversationalist, the first and most important one is positive intent. According to Gibson, intent comes first, even before awareness, asking questions, and listening. He writes, "When you pick up the phone or step into a client meeting your intent will frame what you hear, the words you use and even your tonality, body language and pace of conversations.

A way to have a more positive intent is to change our focus. Create a goal that will make you build relationships instead of simply to sell or close a deal. Gibson's insurance example, "to guide my customers to invest in insurance products that give them peace of mind and take care of them in their times of need, now and in the future."

What is good about this? It focuses our thinking on customer experience, "expands our awareness, it changes the questions we will ask the customer and also will expand the product offerings we will talk about."

This is insightful advice. It helps the salesperson remember the customer as a human. Too often in sales we forget the individual, and focus on the sale. The next step? Create your own statement of positive intent and put it into practice.

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2. Five Sales Best Practices That Will Make Your Competitor Nervous

In Rachel Clapp Miller's article, Miller introduces the idea that the most successful salespeople don't stand out because they show off the features and functions of their product or service, but because they are diligent about selling fundamentals. These include focusing on value and solving problems. Miller makes a list of five practices to differentiate you from the competition by standing out. They are:

 1. Uncover your prospect's largest business issue and the impact.

"The best way to rise above the competition with any buyer is to ask the right questions." You must be able to identify your prospect's business goals. "Don't stop at finding the issue, you also have to uncover the impact."

2. Remember to focus on value.

What is the real value of the product or service you're offering? Write this down to helpp you focus on the value you're providing. Don't get caught up in the new features and deals.

3. Elevate the Conversation to the C-Suite

It is important to not get stuck in the "no-decision" zone. Find who can make the call instead of continually talking to mid-level managers. How can you do this? Elevate your very conversations to the C-Suite. "Once you uncover the largest business problem, your conversation will likely shift to issues needing C-level input."

4. Focus on the Required Capabilities.

"Two critical components to rising above the competition are (1) defining what is needed to make your solution a success and (2) gaining agreement on those requirements." Focus on these capabilities.

5. Have Repeatable and Consistent Messaging

Make sure that all salespeople in your business answer the following essential questions the same:

  • What problems do you solve for your customers?
  • How do you specifically solve these problems?
  • How do you do it differently than your competition?
  • What's your proof?

Make sure the answers are the same so you can gaurantee you don’t have a messaging problem, and so you are all clearly in sync. “Repeatablitiy provides clarity for the customer on your value, while your competition waffles with mixed messages.”

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3. Steps Along the Buying Decision Path

In Sharon Drew Morgan’s article, she addresses the statistic of failing to close deals over 90% of the time, no matter how well the prospect needed our solution. She writes that it’s because “the sales model does not include the skills to facilitate the larger part of buying decisions- thoseidiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes, change-management-driven processes that are private and we can’t be part of.”

Morgan has spent a decade learning what must go on behind the scenes, and how salespeople can be apart of it. Some of her steps include:

  •  Someone has an idea.
  • This person discusses idea with colleagues.
  • They all meet and form groups to address it.
  • Groups meet and consider everything regarding this idea.
  • Organizes, and hands responsibility to others.
  • Change management stage. Is more research necessary? All all appropriate people involved? All all elements included? Pros and Cons?
  • Incorporate change decisions

Morgan has been teaching this sales model since 1989 and has seen continually wonderful results with it. What do you think?

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4. Offer the Best Solution, Not the Lowest Price

In Alen Mayer’s article, Mayer starts “If your offer is based only on price, there is a good chance that someone else will have a lower price than you; and you are prone to becoming involved in a bidding war that distracts from solutions.”

How to avoid this?

“Base your proposal on achieving more goals for your prospects, instead of just saving them money.” This will set you apart from everyone else simply focused on price. While some clients are initially only drawn to the lowest price, but “once a customer has been exposed to your expertise and your understanding of their requirements, you’re most likely to have formed a long-term bond with them. If your customer can come to trust your judgement and ability, you will have a customer for life!”

Remember that the best solution is NOT about the lowest price, but who has the better understanding of your customer’s needs. Never get involved in a bidding war, because you will surely lose sight of the end goal. The key is showing the customer that he or she will get more out of taking your deal because of your research, expertise, and knowledge.

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5. What Kind of Sales Manager would Abraham Lincoln Be?

Abraham Lincoln is a hero of mine. I love learning about him, his life and his presidency. In Kevin Davis’ article, Davis starts with some background on Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln had no management experience, he really was one of the most seemingly unqualified humans to become president. “Lincoln possessed an overabundance of qualities that all great salespeople have: ambition, empathy, and people skills.” These are qualities needed for an entry level sales job and he surely would have moved up to management. What kind of manager would Lincoln be? Davis writes some important points regarding Lincoln:

  •  Lincoln understood the importance of listening and deep thinking.
  • Lincoln was a great coach. He drew on his knowledge and skills, then asked insightful questions to help people discover their own answers.
  • Lincoln supported his peak performers even if they happened to ruffle some feathers in the organization.
  • Lincoln took time to understand what his customers were thinking.
  • Lincoln maintained his sense of humor, even during times of stress.
  • Lincoln managed his anger.
  • He never stopped learning, so he never stopped becoming and better and better leader.

Lincoln would’ve been a great sales manager. Let’s all become more like him, focusing on these qualities and improving every day.

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