Author Archive salestrain

Asking for the Order: New techniques to close the sale without acting like a salesperson

There are usually two points during every sales call that are mildly awkward. Most salespeople will say that those two are the beginning and the end of every scheduled sales call with a prospective client, since both of these can present a unique set of challenges. At the beginning of the sales call, we’re trying to figure out how to quickly connect to build rapport with the customer. And at the end of the sales call, we have to get the client to let loose of their purse strings and give us some money.

Even the most seasoned sales pro will tell you that without a plan and without practice, these two awkward areas can trip up a sales professional for years. So let’s dig deep into this issue and figure out a way to make a positive change in our sales lives. Let’s create a repeatable pattern of success. Shall we?

If you have ever spoken to a long-distance runner, they will tell you that the way you begin the race sets a precedent for the way you will probably end it. For instance, if you start the race too fast, you may not have enough energy to win in the end. And if you save all your gas to the end of the race, you may be too far behind the pacesetter to close the gap and win.

Now, I think we can all agree, there is way more to running a marathon than just the beginning and the end of the race. But this analogy gives us a scenario that we can potentially use as an example to build upon as we explore our client meetings. One takeaway from the marathon runner example is that if we want to end the race strong, we have to start the race smart.

Here’s another example. Let’s look at great storytelling for a minute. We know that every great story needs three components: a beginning, a middle, and an end. You need to start the story strongly by giving the reader a compelling reason why they should keep reading. Then, as a reader, if you get to the end of the book and it doesn’t conclude in a way that’s dramatic, you will often feel like you’ve wasted time reading the book. A lackluster ending can really let you down. Just as with the racing example, there’s a lot more in those pages between the beginning and the end, but you can see that there’s a similarity between the two.

As a media sales and marketing professional for over 30 years, I think both of these are great examples of what we need to do to create a plan to make sure we start our sales calls strong and end them strong. We shouldn’t be lopsided at all in this attempt. We should be well-practiced, and we should understand that if we start strong, we will probably finish strong, as well.

So let’s look at how we sales pros can set ourselves up for success in the media sales business and host the very best meetings to help us achieve our goals. First, I suggest that we start with the end.

What is the one thing that nearly every sales manager asks us to do on a regular basis? Ask for the order, right? Yet, asking for the order can be one of the most awkward situations, even for veteran salespeople. Why? Because it’s that point in every conversation where we have to move into ”sales mode.” Or do we? I don’t see the end of the sales calls where you ask for the order as a “yes” or “no” type of question or situation. Sometimes, I can tell that a potential buyer is ready to go, and it’s very easy to move them on to the next step. In my experience, though, the majority of the time they’re holding back some of their cards and I truly don’t know exactly what it is they’re thinking. Even in the middle of the sales call when I ask some really great questions, I don’t always know exactly what they’re thinking. I need a little more engagement. So at the end of the sales call, if I ask a yes-or-no question, I will probably hear a “Well, let me think about it” response. I suppose that is better than a “no.” But is it, really? Are potential clients telling you that they need to think about it as a way to end the sales call? Or do they really need to think about it? Or, are they just not telling you “no” because you are a nice person? Or do they just hate saying no? Or are they afraid that if they say no that you will go into a desperate sales rant to save the deal? All of these questions are valid. And these questions have led me to a unique closing technique that I call the 1-to-10 close.

The 1-to-10 close is an easy way to ask for the order and to engage more deeply with the client. It sounds something like this … “Bonnie, thanks so much for the opportunity to meet with you today. I think this has been a really great conversation. If you don’t mind me asking, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 meaning you’re really not that interested, and 10 meaning you’re ready to write me a check today, where are you at?”

This 1-to-10 closing technique allows me to re-engage more deeply with the customer and really see where they’re at in their mind, related to buying. If a client says to me they are a 5, I simply ask them what I need to do or say or what questions I can answer to get them to be more like a 6 or 7. If someone says they are a 5, that tells me that they are about at the 50/50 mark as to whether they should buy or not. If I don’t engage more deeply, I only have a 50% chance of closing the deal. If I had not used the 1-to-10 technique, I would bet that they would have said they wanted to think about it, and I would not have had a chance to give them more decision-making details. If a client were to say to me that they are at 3, I would simply ask them what I can do or say or what questions I can answer that might get them to be closer to a 5 or a 6. Thus, I have just attempted to move them from a “no” to at least a 50/50 shot.

I truly believe that if a customer is at 3, they will never tell you unless you ask them for deeper engagement. If they are at a 3 and they are bold enough to say “no,” they fully expect you to jump back at them and get aggressive and try to close them. Who likes that? When you continue to sell after a “no,” you are setting yourself up for future failure. Because you have just solidified in their minds that you are a typical salesperson—pushy, over the top, and money-hungry to close a deal. What is interesting to me is the number of times when I press for more during the closing process, only to realize that the client just does not want to say no to me, because I am a darn nice guy, or they just don’t want to hurt my feelings. So again, the 1-to-10 closing technique, when paired with a solid sales call opener, can create a strong strategy for closing success.

Now, let’s talk about the start of the sales call for just a minute. I do not like to start with bologna. I like to start strong. So I first validate time. “Thanks, Bonnie, for the 20 minutes today. Do you still have 20 minutes?” Then, I set my three-point agenda and make sure that they agree with the agenda. And then I begin sharing my success stories. Because let me emphasize, I truly believe that starting the call with bologna forces you to engage in making a bologna sandwich. And I simply don’t have time for that. Do you?

Being great in sales is all about creating repeatable patterns of success. What is your prospecting process and how do you repeat success? What are the five main questions you ask on every sales call that you know will work? What are the stories you share that almost always get you a positive response? How will you end your next sales call to get past the “I need to think about it”? In today’s emotional sales environment, you cannot do what you have always done. What you did in the past may not get you to where you need to be in the future. Growing in sales is about adjusting. So, the real question is this … are you willing to adjust to close more deals?

Fellow media sales warriors, never forget, if ad sales was an easy job, everyone would be doing it. And they are not. We are the chosen few. And we have found careers that will feed our families for a lifetime.



Getting Out of a Sales Rut: Exploring the intersection of mental health and sales fatigue

Mental health is a very important subject for us to discuss as it relates to our work life and, I believe, our sales life, as well. Please understand that I am not a clinically trained therapist in any way, shape or form. I do hold an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) certification from the International Coaching Federation. My intention with this column is to try to provide inspiration to those of you who might have found yourselves in a sales rut or mentally fatigued at work, or in life, as we’re getting back to some level of normal sales business across America. If you are experiencing significant mental fatigue or issues related to your mental well-being, please seek professional advice. I have listed several resources at the end of this column. I dedicate this column to my fellow media sales warrior, Chris Atkins, who took his life amidst a vibrant media sales career. Chris, you are missed.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 31% of survey respondents report symptoms of anxiety or depression, 13% report having started or increased substance use, 26% report stress-related symptoms, and 11% report having serious thoughts of suicide within the past 30 days. These numbers are nearly double the rates expected before the pandemic. Friends, this is a real problem. This is more than a revenue issue. This is a human issue.

We’ve all had those days and weeks and months. Days when you just don’t feel like doing much of anything, much less selling. It doesn’t matter if you are selling copy machines or advertising. Some days you just don’t feel like doing it. Have you had one of those days? If you haven’t, you’ve probably not been selling for very long, because it’s quite normal to feel this way. But know this: you are not alone out there.

So, what do you do? Is there a way to get yourself out of a sales rut? Is there a way to push through the mental fatigue? The answer is a resounding … YES! Rather than blaming this dilemma on the pandemic, it’s probably better for all of us in sales land to recognize that we’re just normal people that have chosen a career many would never take for any amount of money. Each month I end my Ad Sales Nation podcast by saying, “If ad sales was easy, everybody would be doing it. And they’re not. We are the chosen few. But, we’ve found a career that will feed our families for a lifetime.” It is a statement that I feel deeply about. I tell my ad sales coaching clients all the time that I go where I want, eat where I want, travel where I want, all because of media sales. It has literally been a part of my life for 30 years. But over that period of time there have been many days, many weeks, many months when I’ve just not felt like I wanted to sell anything. Here are the seven things that I often do when I find myself in a sales rut or mentally exhausted from the business of sales.

  1. Connect with others in the sales business. The first thing for every sales rep to recognize is that sales ruts are normal and they happen to everybody. You are a unique person, but this circumstance and situation is not unique at all. You’re human. These things happen to all of us. It’s important also to surround yourself with other people that understand where you’re coming from. Oftentimes, those around you can’t sympathize very much because they don’t really know what it’s like to be in the sales business. Think about it. If every day you’re guaranteed a paycheck, you’re not used to what we in sales land are going through each day. Being in sales is tough. We live and die by our sales activity. Nothing is a guarantee in sales. Having a few mutual connections that are also in the sales business is important to your long-term sanity. While it’s always good to get other people’s outside perspective, it’s also equally important to surround yourself with other people who completely and utterly understand what you’re going through on a daily basis. There’s a reason that people crinkle their noses when you tell them you are in sales. You probably do not smell bad. They just know they could not handle being in sales. In every major city there are groups of sales professionals that gather together on a regular basis. With COVID restrictions subsiding across the country, It’s probably easier now than it has been in the last year to find a group of like-minded sales professionals that you can gel with and who will provide you a shoulder to lean on. Here is a link to several groups that you can join: I truly feel this is an important piece of the puzzle. If you’re not able to find a networking group, seek out professional sales coaching. Finding a coach that’s also in the sales business can be extremely helpful to you since they will be able to better sympathize with your current situation and provide guidance.
  2. Change your frequency. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to read the book The Secret, you’ll understand a little bit of what I’m talking about. Even if you feel that book to be complete hocus-pocus, I feel it to be based in some level of reality. There is a universal understanding that when you continue to do something the same way and expect a different result, you are defining or trying to redefine the non-clinical version of insanity. Many of the salespeople that I personally coach will find themselves on the wrong frequency. They have been doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, and they just can’t see why things aren’t going in their direction. Whether you believe that life operates on certain planes or frequencies is completely up to you. But, I can tell you that changing things up, changing your frequency, can be part and parcel to your success and getting out of a sales rut. Recently, I was working with a fantastic sales professional that found herself in a sales rut. I encouraged her to change things up. To leave home at a different time for work. To drive a new direction to the office. To listen to a different style of music on her way to work. To change her coffee. To park in a different parking spot. To wear a different type of outfit than she would normally wear to work. All of these little factors contribute to you looking at things from a different perspective. What’s interesting is that we are all creatures of habit. Some of those habits become so ingrained in our lives that even though we’re doing the same thing over and over again, we just don’t see it as being that simple. After just 48 hours of doing things completely differently than she normally would, she closed a big dollar sales deal. Was it the coffee? Was it a magic parking spot? No. I don’t think that this is a conspiracy theory by any means. A lot of times it’s just about retraining your brain to see things from a little bit of a different perspective. Try something different today. You might be surprised at how impactful it is on your life.
  3. Call a client who loves you. All of us have advertisers that we love. In some cases, I’ve been in the wedding of some of my favorite clients. After all, sales is about quality relationships with quality people. Do I love all my advertisers? The answer is … no, I don’t. But I do have a select group of advertisers and clients that I absolutely enjoy and would spend time with regardless of whether or not they did business with me. These are the types of people that I often call on when I’m having a bad day. I do not usually tell them that I’m having a bad day. But, I will engage in conversation with them knowing that they are not going to beat me up about price or frequency or Facebook. There are three things that can come from this. The first is that you just might find a sales opportunity. The second is that you are actually doing yourself a favor by retaining that customer. The third is that you created a positive conversation that will probably lead to another one. I’m not suggesting that you ask your advertisers to be your therapist. I’m merely suggesting that when you talk to people that really like you, you tend to re-energize yourself with positivity.
  4. Work your list of clients. Within any competent Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, you are able to form a list of customers. I have three lists that I work on a daily basis. The first list is a standard prospecting list like the one we all have in front of us. The second list contains those clients that I’ve already met with that I consider “in progress” towards a sale. The third list is my active clients that I am looking to retain for a lifetime. When I’m having a bad sales day, I focus on my lists. I might put on some rock music and increase the strength of my coffee, and then I work my lists. What I find is that lists create focus. When you’re mentally fatigued you often have a hard time focusing. With a focused list, I’m able to really laser-focus in on a particular group of people that I’m calling for a reason. Keep in mind, I’m not a big fan of leaving voice messages and asking people to call me back. Rather, I leave a voicemail to encourage a customer to reply to the email that I sent. So, when I’m working this list, I am usually using a cadence of phone call first, followed up by an immediate email. My lists are a living, breathing document. My goal is not to work a list from 10 to 0. My goal is to have a list that is always growing and changing. From a pipeline sales management perspective, I never want any of my list to get to 0. If your CRM system can’t create a list, I would suggest you find a new CRM.
  5. Work new categories. In addition to the list that I work on a daily basis, I will oftentimes change my sales approach on categories that I sell. Personally, I like to trade accounts with other sales professionals on my team. The reason for this is because when I give someone an account that I’ve worked hard and they trade with me, we almost always close a deal one way or the other. Many times customers just need to hear a different tone of voice or a different approach. From a team perspective, I like the fact that I can get out of a certain category and focus on another category to give my brain something fresh to look at.
  6. Get some sleep. Sleep experts from the Mayo Clinic tell us that a lack of focus or mental fatigue can often be traced back to a lack of sleep. Don’t fool yourself. Most adults need seven or more hours of sleep each night to function at a high capacity level. If you’re like most salespeople, after a long day you’ll have a couple of cocktails, a nice meal, and stay up late binge-watching Netflix. Completely normal. But also, this particular habit could lead you to a lack of sleep. One of the things I noticed when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea is that I was definitely not getting enough sleep. I am an eight-hour of sleep kind of guy. My body truly needs eight hours of sleep. Can I function on seven hours of sleep? Absolutely. But if I want to be at my prime, I need eight hours of sleep. I know this sounds like a basic thought. Sort of a 101 kind of thing, right? So do it! Sometimes it does take a village to be successful. You may need to talk to your significant other and make it a team effort. In the end, though, your success is a team success at home and in the office.
  7. Get back to the basics. When things aren’t going well it is a common practice for us to take random sales approaches to see what might stick against the wall. This is an absolutely bad sales strategy whether you’re new or old in the sales business. There are fundamental pieces to the sales game that have to be achieved in order for you to be successful. Go back to the basics. Are your emails short and simple and to the point? Are your emails and voice mails relevant to the exact needs of the customer? Are you contacting your customers at the optimal time of day? Are you selling strictly on the phone or are you trying to get in front of people to have face-to-face meetings? These are just a few of the basics that you need to wrap your head around if you’re going to be successful and get back on the sales horse for a long ride to victory. Look back at your sales life. What are the three things that worked best for you in the past? Go back and look at them closely.

In the end, you control you. While other people around you influence you … in the end, the decisions that you make are the decisions that you will make. Please don’t settle for the statement, “It is what it is.” I don’t accept that with myself or with my family members or with my team members. I truly believe it is what you make it.

If you’re in a sales rut, choose just one of the seven ideas listed in this column and put it into action. Wrap your brain around it. Commit to it. And own it. Getting out of a rut is not about giving it half your effort. It’s going to take everything you’ve got to get the train back on the tracks and rolling in the right direction.

And finally, never, ever be afraid to ask for help.

As I stated at the beginning, you might find yourself in a situation where you just can’t get yourself mentally correct. Please seek professional advice if that happens. Here are some resources to help.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En español 1-888-628-9454

Use Lifeline Chat on the web:

The Lifeline is a free, confidential crisis service that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects people to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO” to 741741. The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.


Helping Advertisers Prepare for the Buying Bump: 10 Ideas to Update Your Media Sales Game

All research points to a buying bump that is set to occur. We see citizens getting back to some level of normalcy, signaling that many buying habits will soon come back into play. Yet, our advertisers are still throwing us the same COVID-based objections. Do they not want to get back to business? Why is it so hard for them to grasp that advertising starts the process to get customers back in the door?

I believe that business owners are suffering from a sort of PTSD over the massive shock to their businesses that the COVID pandemic dealt them over the last 12 months. So, how do we help them? The first step is to understand them.

As a media sales rep myself, I have the chance to speak to advertisers daily. I also have the unique opportunity to coach media sales reps around the globe. Sarah in Singapore, Peter and his team in Australia, John and his colleagues up in Toronto, and of course my teams here in the United States. They all report a distinct change in their advertisers over the last 12 months.

For the last three years, each Friday I have asked a group of my coaching clients to answer this multiple-choice question: What type of advertiser attitudes did you come across last week? Their response options have been 1.) advertisers making ego-driven advertising decisions, 2.) advertisers making logical-based ad buying decisions, and 3.) advertisers making decisions based on emotion and how they feel at the moment.

This past week when I asked the question, 5% of media sales reps reported that they met with ego-driven individuals last week, and this did not change much between 2019, 2020, and 2021. Interestingly enough, and sorry to all of the agency media buyers out there, reps reported that many clients in this 5% were agency buyers.

Now, let’s look at the percentage of logical buyers. Down 9% from 2020, logical buyers represented 21% of the buyers that your fellow media sales warriors met with last week. These logical buyers typically want nothing but the facts, just the numbers.

And next, and what’s really interesting, is the number of emotional buyers—up 9% last week and reported at 74%! You read that right. Seventy-four percent of the media sales warriors I’m regularly coaching are telling me that the buyers they’re meeting with right now are highly emotional. This doesn’t mean that they don’t use any logic in the process of making decisions, but they’re showing us that they’re very emotional in the way that they’re buying. It’s a lot about how they feel, regardless of the facts that are being presented to them.

With the knowledge presented here in hand, we have to change how we sell media. If we keep selling traditional media in traditional ways, we will keep getting traditional results. So here are 10 thoughts on changing your media sales approach to increase your close rate as you sell in a post-pandemic media sales world:

  1. Emotional buyers do not respond well to data and stats. You will find your best success in selling with advertiser success stories or case studies. Talk up-front about the three advertisers that you love the most and the results they are seeing.
  2. Do NOT ask the standard questions you have been asking for years. Why ask what their budget is and reinforce the fact that they have no money to spend? Instead, talk ethically about your other advertisers that are seeing results. Paint them a picture of potential. A better question to ask would be, “Tell me about a local busines you feel does a good job of marketing?” Then, talk about what marketing success could look like.
  3. Do not try to win the traditional vs. digital argument. Instead, talk about multi-media. Speak to five or six things that other business owners are doing to win. Traditional and digital. Digital is really kind of the bare minimum, actually. We’ve got to raise the bar or set the bar with our advertisers and prospects, and that’s one of the things I want you to seriously consider. As ad sales pros, we’ve got to control the narrative. Digital-only advertisers limit themselves and their total ROI.
  4. Talk about minimums required for ROI success. There is a reality to marketing. There is a dollar value attached to that reality. Show the reality. It might sound something like this, “If you’re going to be competitive, there’s a certain minimum number of marketing initiatives that you need to do in any given 30-day period just to be competitive.” These minimums should be shown in your thee pricing plans/packages that you present on every sales call.
  5. Come with ideas ready to roll. Most people have lost patience for just about everything. The last thing they want to do is sit through a sales discovery interrogation session. You are 70% more likely to close business when you recommend what somebody needs to do as opposed to what they want to do. Sure, ask questions, but stop being a custom solution builder. There is no proof that custom advertising solutions sell more than recommending what will work for a tested category of your clients. Custom solutions require a higher level of knowledge. They take longer to close. And, they require the most customer support from your team.
  6. In a time of crisis, most people want to be led. So lead. You are a Media Sales Ad-visor. Recommend media options based on what has worked for your other advertisers. I’ll reiterate: it’s not about budget. It’s about what the advertiser’s category demands. Identify what they NEED, get them results, and you’ll have customers for a lifetime.
  7. Social media is not the single answer to marketing. If Coke or Tide could get away with doing only social, they would. Yet, they collectively spend millions each year on traditional media. I might say this to my advertising clients right now, “Mr. or Mrs. Advertiser, so you love social media. Great. We do too. But, pretty much every business is on Facebook. Let’s talk about what things are you doing to be different.” Because everybody’s on social media right now. Social media is really, really saturated. Digital as a whole, quite honestly, is saturated. So the question is, “What are you doing to stand out from the crowd in a digitally cluttered, digitally saturated marketing landscape?” I love digital. But it is not the single holy grail.
  8. Digital and social are different. Show the difference. Social is intrusion-based advertising. The digital we sell as a media company is permission-based marketing. If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” we’ve got Apple, iOS, and Chrome about to block all cookies, and in fact some of those things have already happened. From watching this documentary and from observing numerous other sources as well, I believe we’re going to see a traditional media resurgence. Now, is it ever going to be the way that it was in the ‘80s? No. But neither is the music ever going to be the same.
  9. Traditional media is a dominating marketing play. Not everyone can afford print or radio. Every business does social. Not every business does traditional. What’s interesting, for those of you who sell traditional advertising, is that we’re seeing in almost all of our research that one of the best drivers of social media activity—search activity, Google, etc.—comes from traditional media sources. Look no further than the NNA, Borrell, or the Association of Magazine Media for facts to back this up.
  10. Sell the marketing triangle of success? Traditional, digital, and social. Because events aren’t really in play right now, stick with these main three now. Yes, there are virtual events and they’re working in B2B. But the trifecta right now is going to be social and digital, and then having traditional media in the mix as the differentiating factor. Because, if advertisers want to be dominant in their marketplace, they have to do what others either don’t know how to do, or what others think they need to do but can’t execute on because of budget or other circumstances.

Media sales warriors, people have been putting off significant buys for quite some time. COVID forced them into that scenario. Now with vaccinations rolling out, with restrictions being lifted, people are going to come back out and buy. The critical question is, “Mr. or Mrs. Business Owner, are you going to be ready?” It doesn’t matter if they’re local, national, or global. Are they going to be positioned ahead of time to take advantage of the buying bump that’s going to occur? Demand for products is going up, and it’s going to go up higher than it ever has before. Are they going to be positioned correctly? Think about it, friends. You’re dealing with a lot of emotional people—74%, remember. So guide them. Lead them. Help them understand what they need to do to be successful.

You know what I always say, “If ad sales was easy, everybody would be doing it.” And they’re not. Is that because we’re crazy? No. (Well, maybe we are a little bit.) The truth is that we’ve found careers that will feed our families for a lifetime. And there has never been a better time than now to sell media.



Stop Being Ghosted by Your Advertisers

6 ways to stop advertisers from simply disappearing after a sales call

Ghosting is a relatively new colloquialism that refers to the act of abruptly cutting off contact with someone, without giving that person any warning or explanation for doing so. Even when the person being ghosted reaches out to reinitiate contact or gain closure, they’re met with silence.

Out here in sales land this phenomenon happens to all of us and, unfortunately, often at a higher frequency than we would like to admit.

Has this happened to you? You had a great meeting with a potential advertiser and they’ve asked you for a proposal. You go back to the office and you are excited. You create the proposal. You send over the requested proposal with the anticipation of hearing back soon. Then, everything goes dark. You hear nothing. Every day you play a game of what feels like hide and seek. You reach out by email or phone. You hear nothing. In some cases, you begin to stalk the advertiser by driving past their business. You hear nothing. At a certain point, you become frustrated with yourself. You think maybe you did something wrong. Well, maybe you did.

Ghosting is not necessarily a new phenomenon for salespeople, it’s just that now the behavior has an actual name associated with it. And since it’s really nothing new for a salesperson to experience, why are we surprised when it happens yet again?

But it doesn’t have to be like this, generally speaking. So let’s look at six ways to avoid being ghosted by an advertiser.

STRATEGY #1: Acknowledge the ghost. At the beginning and end of every sales call with a client, I’m vividly clear about the expectations for the meeting and the expectations for the follow-up. Because typically, there are two awkward moments in every sales call. The beginning. And the end. So, why not just talk about it upfront?

For example, I might say, “Thank you so much for the time today, Bob. At the end of our conversation today I would love to set up a clear plan for follow-up. If your answer is yes … wonderful. If your answer is no … that’s okay, we can always work together at some point in the future. Or, if your answer is that you need to think about it … that’s no problem. We’ll set a very clear plan for following up together. A plan that meets your exact needs and decision-making timeline.”

When you begin sales calls by setting yourself up for success, you normally end the sales call with success. If you begin the sales call with a bunch of the normal bologna that accompanies the typical rapport-building, then you are destined to end the call with an equal amount of bologna.

STRATEGY #2: You must own the follow-up process or you will lose the deal. Very often salespeople will give control of the follow-up over to the advertiser. And very often the advertiser will say they will call you back. We all know this is a flat-out lie, in most cases. So, why do we allow the advertiser to control the follow-up? Because we don’t know what else to do. But know this: there should always be a plan in place to control the follow-up with the advertiser.

Very often I will end the sales call by getting out my phone or looking at my calendar and creating a meeting invite for the follow-up. When I create that follow-up I create a short, 10-minute meeting on the calendar. That way when the follow-up meeting appears on the advertiser’s calendar, it looks like a very short meeting and is less likely to be canceled.

STRATEGY #3: Agree on the best plan for follow-up. A lot of times when you end the sales call, there is not a clear plan nor an agreed-upon plan. Take ownership of the follow-up and be sure that both parties agree that the follow-up plan is crystal clear. You might even ask some questions like, “What is the best way for me to follow up with you? Do you prefer texts? Smoke signals? Carrier pigeon? Or email?”

Now, all kidding aside, my follow-up preference would be by phone. But if you happen to be selling in a local sales environment, you could set the follow-up to be a quick drop-in. You might be thinking to yourself … what if the advertiser wants to call me back and they refuse to set the follow-up? At that point, I believe you need to acknowledge the circumstance as it has been laid in front of you. I would ask this question: “If this is a marketing idea that you love I would think a follow-up would make a ton of sense, right? If this is not an idea that you love and you’re just being kind to me, please let me know. My goal here is to help and not to be a waste of your time.”

STRATEGY #4: Texting may be the best way to follow up. Ugh. Yes, I said it. I consider myself to be a technology expert. I absolutely love technology. I believe that technology has really helped salespeople increase our sales games and be more productive. But I admit that I am not a huge fan of texting advertisers.

The reason is because of the personal nature of texting. However, with that said, I have definitely seen a large majority of my clients move to texting as a quick way to follow up. To that end, at the close of a sales call, I want to make sure that I get the advertiser’s permission to text them. Sure, you probably don’t need to do this, but I just like to have someone’s permission before I’m texting to their personal cell phone. Call me old-school if you want. I will wear it with a badge of honor. But please understand, I do recognize that texting is an important part of the sales process.

STRATEGY #5: Be safe, but recognize that face-to-face is still the best way to sell. My comments are not meant to be political in any way. I want everybody to be safe, and as a survivor of COVID-19, I would never wish it upon my worst enemy. I’m finding that most advertisers I’m working with are fine with face-to-face meetings. But be safe out there. Because it is hard to ignore that face-to-face meetings are better than virtual meetings. And yet we know that virtual meetings are always better than phone meetings.

So whatever you need to do out there, be safe, but recognize that getting in front of advertisers is a very important part of being a professional in the sales business. It is harder for an advertiser to ghost you after they have a personal, face-to-face conversation and connect with you.

STRATEGY #6: Present ideas on the spot. I have preached about this for years. You are not selling a cure for cancer. You are selling and recommending marketing options. So why are you not going to the sales call armed with a proposal filled with great ideas? Because someone has convinced you that you cannot create a proposal until you know the advertiser’s “needs.” This is just not true. Any given advertiser in any given category is going to normally do three to six things to be successful. Period. So look at the past success other advertisers have had in a certain category and make educated recommendations. While on the sales call, tweak what you brought to better fit the advertiser’s needs. There is truly no reason to leave to create a proposal. This is an invitation to be ghosted. Why give that invitation?

If you’re a reader of my column on a regular basis, you’ll know that I’m all about having an organized sales plan of attack. I do like to be a little unorthodox at times, though, because breaking up consistent patterns of failure is very important to success. But still, never forget that failing to plan is planning to fail. And I believe that in the sales business, this quote is more accurate than ever.

In closing, ghosting is just something that’s going to occur in the sales business. It’s a part of the sales process. Be prepared for it. Any plan is better than no plan at all.

And never forget, if ad sales was easy everybody would be doing it. And they are not. We are the chosen few. We have found amazing media careers that will feed our families for a lifetime.

Think Like a Doctor Not a Salesperson

AUTHOR NOTE TO READERS:  This article was written to assist my clients in the advertising sales sector.  I say all the time, “if you can sell a newspaper ad, you can sell anything.”  I think we all can learn from these street smart sales superstars. So, take the info and translate it for your industry.   – Ryan Dohrn, Founder, Sales Training World

Every single sales call with an advertiser is valuable. So valuable that you do not want to waste time asking questions that will not help you close the deal. After 30 years of selling and marketing media, I find that you have three to five questions, and that is about it, on every sales call. More than that and you might as well turn on a bright light and point it into your advertiser’s eyes and take the interrogation to the next level. I am kidding, of course. The issue is that many media sales warriors have been misled to ask the wrong questions. When you first start your training as a salesperson, there is usually a conversation about asking the three critical sales questions that are core to your success. Those three questions normally include the following: Are they the person that can make advertising decisions? What marketing are you currently doing? What is your budget for marketing? But what if I told you that I deeply believe that these are not the best questions to ask on a media sales call? Would you read on? Or would you roll your eyes? Well, thanks for reading on because I feel we need to sell differently, now more than ever before. In previous blogs I have stated that if we keep selling traditional media in traditional ways, we are destined to get traditional results. So, what can we do to be bigger, badder, and better in the media ad sales business? I believe it starts with reformatting the questions we ask. I deeply feel that we all need to think like a doctor and not like a salesperson.

Consider this: you go to the doctor looking for relief from some type of ailment. They will normally ask you these three questions. What is causing you pain? How long has this been a problem? What have you done so far to fix the pain? If we can be in the business of removing pain, like a doctor, we have a repeatable pattern for ad sales success. Let’s start with the old questions and move to the prescription for success.

Do we need to know if the person is the decision maker? Of course. But, if we only meet with decision makers, we will not have enough meetings to get to our sales goal. In addition, in the media business, we are working with a different buying structure compared to “normal” companies. Unlike a copier salesperson, we are working with marketing directors or business owners. Both are in a unique position, unlike an acquisition clerk at a standard company, to make decisions or highly influence decisions. There are normally not many layers to get to a marketing decision. So I suggest that we swap this question out for a new one. Keep reading, it is coming up.

Do we need to know what marketing they are currently doing? Of course. That helps immensely. But, this question leads the advertiser to hijack your sales call and talk about the other things they are doing. You have just invited them to talk about your competition on your sales call. There is a better way to handle this question and get the answer that you need to move your ball down the field towards a touchdown. We need this answer, but we should ask it in a different way. So, I suggest that we swap out this question for a new one. Keep reading, it is coming up.

Do we need to know their budget? Of course. But how many times have you been given an accurate answer? How many times have you been told, there is no budget? Asking an advertiser their budget forces you to live in their often unrealistic reality of what it takes to market their product or service to your readers. You are asking them to force you into their reality instead of guiding them to the actual reality of what it takes to have a presence, be competitive, or dominate the pages of your publication or website. Asking for budget without showing them the reality of marketing is a waste of a question. Again, we need this answer. But I suggest that we swap out this question for a new one. Keep reading, it is coming up.

When it comes times to asking questions of an advertiser, I have a proven three-step process that has worked over and over again. I truly feel it is the prescription for getting the answers we need and for closing deals. It will probably sound like just what the doctor ordered. So, what is your biggest problem or pain point? How long has that problem been painful? And, what have you done to fix that problem or alleviate that pain? Let’s expand on this three-step process of questions, right now.

Question #1: I like to ask, when you agreed to meet with me today, what is the one business challenge or point of pain that you think I can help you solve? This helps the advertiser get specific with you. It allows you to provide them with specific solutions to specific problems. This helps you get clear on their points of pain. They may have one or they may have five. Ask them to get clear with you, and take notes. Sympathize with them. Tell them they are not alone. Reference that you have heard this pain point before and have some ideas to help. Once you know their pain, now you want to enhance the pain … just a touch.

Question #2: Pain is a real motivator in problem-solving and customer relations. If you can be seen as the person or company that removes the pain points a business owner is facing, your secret media elixir will sell like wildfire. After I ask and identify their pain points, I will ask this simple question: “How long has this been a problem?” Normally, the answer surprises me. I am trying to enhance the pain. I want to make it very real for them, especially if they have been advertising with a competitor for years. I want them to subtly realize that they have been advertising elsewhere and this darn problem still exists. I am not looking to make them feel dumb, however. I just want them to see that they still have the pain point and they do not like the pain. Once the pain is real, I dig just a bit deeper by asking my third question.

Question #3: What have you done to fix this problem? I might even ask how much money they have spent to try and fix the issue. Oh wait, did I just ask their budget? Well … sort of. I want to enhance the fact that they have spent money and time and the problem still exists. Again, sympathize with them. Tell them they are not alone. Reference that you have heard this pain before and have some ideas to help.

Your doctor does the same thing when you come to their office. Right? What is the problem? How long has this been a problem? What have you done so far to fix the pain? If we can be in the business of removing pain, we have a repeatable pattern for ad sales success.

Now, I am not suggesting that these are the only questions you should ask. If you read this blog often, you know that there are many other questions to ask. I am simply suggesting that we have limited time on that single valuable sales call, and we want to ask the best questions to get the best results. The other thing is that there are so many age-old sales questions that make us sound like every other media salesperson. In most markets, the questions that you ask will set you apart from the other salespeople that are calling on your same clients. Do you believe that questions separate you from others? The answer is yes.

Two final points. If we keep selling traditional media in traditional ways, we are destined to get traditional results. So let’s change a bit. And remember, if ad sales was an easy job, everyone would be doing it. We are the chosen few. Let’s always be looking to improve our media sales game.


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10 Sales Tips to Help You Leave 2020 in the Dust

2020 has been an absolutely c-r-a-z-y year, one we’ll never forget. But now it’s time to jump into 2021 and ramp up for a MUCH better year—a year that’s filled with some crazy success!

The question is, what are we going to do to dive into 2021 with a fervor? And how can we do more with less? (Because I’m sure we’re all being tasked to do just that.)

So I’m going to share with you some ideas that can help all of us drive toward serious success in 2021. When it comes down to it, these are fundamental things that we need to do consistently every year—in sales, in marketing, and in business—to truly become and to stay exceedingly successful.

These suggestions go way beyond the standard New Year’s resolutions people make. Because did you know that 75% of people just like you and me fail on those resolutions by January 28? They don’t even keep those resolutions alive more than 28 days!

Why? It’s because they don’t do these 10 things to set themselves up for success—success that lasts all year long and takes them into the next.

No 1: Set keystone habits first.

Most people go straight to goal setting, when they really need to set keystone habits first. What are they? They are far more important than the big sales goals you will set for 2021.

But what is a keystone? If you look at an arch in a doorway, picture an old castle if you will, there’s a prominent stone right in the center that looks like a wedge. And without that stone, called the “keystone,” the arch would fall. The strength of that arch comes from the keystone right in the center. It’s that foundational piece of an arch that’s going to last hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

What are keystone habits for you and me? Simple things, like getting plenty of sleep. Drinking plenty of water. Reducing stress by getting out and exercising. Things like that.

Think about it this way. Is weight loss a keystone habit? The answer is probably not. But a keystone habit to help you reach that larger goal might be, when you’re at the grocery store, to only shop from the outside aisles of the store, and not in the middle where the less healthy stuff is. Right?

Keystone habits are fundamental. What do they look like for you? The biggest one for me is sleep—making sure I get at least eight hours each night. And it’s tough, because I love to binge watch Netflix after a long day of work.

So think about your keystone habits … they’re going to be different from your big goals, but they’re going to set you up for success so you can reach the big ones.

No. 2: As you’re setting goals, identify the “why” in the goal.

Before you think about how you’ll get to your sales goals you’ve got to  think about why. The why is fundamentally important to your success in goal setting in 2021.

Going back to the weight loss example, what would the “why” look like? Why are you trying to lose weight? To be healthier. But why? To live longer. But really, why? So that you don’t die! And you can actually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

So idea no. 2 gets down to the heart of the matter—and making sure you identify the “why” in every goal that you set. Not just the what, not just the how, but the why.

No. 3: Set mini goals to get to your bigger goals.

See, a lot of times the reason you fail on the big goals is because the mini goals have not been set or achieved. And there’s typically three mini goals below each main goal. And when you actually achieve your mini goals, that allows you to get to your big goal.

So let’s say, for example, that your big goal is to exceed your sales numbers in 2021. Excellent. Now what are the mini goals to get you there?

One mini goal might be to establish an active pipeline that you’re working every three days. And perhaps that could start with even another mini goal—like learning how to work your CRM really effectively.

Another mini goal in trying to get to the bigger goal could be that you’re going to learn your sales math, your call-to-close ratios, and then improve upon them.

To sum up: mini goals … set them to get to your bigger goals. And before that? Establish your keystone habits, and then sit down and identify the “why” in your bigger goals.

No. 4: Become a time management master. 

Heading into 2021, we’re all being tasked to do more with less. So, being a time management master comes down, in my sales experience, to time blocking. You’ve absolutely got to learn to time block.

Let’s say one of your mini goals is, “I need to call 25 people each and every day.” How will you reach this? Time blocking. Put it on your calendar and make it repeat each day.

Time blocking is fundamentally one of the greatest things I’ve ever done that’s made the most impact on my sales life, my marketing life … even my personal life.

No. 5: Plan to adjust your plan.

Planning to adjust your plan is part and parcel to your success, because a lot of times we fail at goals simply because the train came off the tracks as we were trying to get to the goal. And when that happened, we simply didn’t know what to do.

So, plan to adjust your plan. Just plan to fail. “WHAT?” you’re saying. The gurus (be careful about self-proclaimed gurus) always say, “You’ve got to visualize winning. Visualize reaching your goals.”

But here’s what I tell people to think about in my sales training. Plan to fail so that you have a plan for when the train comes off the tracks—so you can get back on the tracks again, really fast. Planning to adjust your plan is really about understanding that the vast majority of people are going to fail on their way to getting to the big goal. So because of that, you want to plan to adjust your plan.

When the mini goal train goes off the tracks, how do you see that it’s going off the tracks and how do you get it back on? A lot of it, quite honestly, is simply paying attention.

No. 6: Oftentimes, you will need an accountability buddy.

Think about it. When do you lose the most weight? When you have a buddy. When do you gain the most muscle mass—on your own or with a trainer? Usually with a trainer. You probably need some kind of an accountability buddy.

Now, if you don’t have one, you can use your calendar, your phone, an app to constantly remind you. Whatever you use, an accountability buddy is vitally important in your sales life, your marketing life, and in your business life.

How do you find one? Maybe you pay for a coach. And that’s okay—I have a coach, and I think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I have a coach. And that coach is always asking me, “How are you doing on this? How are you doing on that?”

Having an accountability buddy, in whatever form that takes for you, is very, very important.

No. 7: Know your deal count.

In the sales business, if you’re going to achieve your sales goals, you’ve got to know your deal counts. You’ve got to know your call-to-close ratios.

It’s so difficult to go into a month of selling if you don’t know how many calls you need to make to get a meeting. And then, how many meetings do you need to have to close a deal? And how many deals do you need to get to goal?

To be successful in the sales business, you’ve got to know your numbers so you know what it takes for you to close a deal. I stress this over and over in my sales training.

Here’s an example. I know that if I call 10 people and I work them every three days, out of those 10 people I’m going to get a couple of meetings. Then, out of those meetings, usually about half of them, I’m going to get a proposal in front of that person. And from there, about 30% of the time I’m going to close.

So, when I get to 10 meetings, I close about three in 10. And I think that’s very, very successful.

But I was talking to a guy the other day and he said, “Ryan, I close 80% of meetings I go on. So I need help closing that last 20%.” And I’m like, “Dude, you need to write a book, because nobody closes 80% (without discounting).”

So, know your deal count. I truly believe that if you’re closing 30-40%, you’re doing well out there in COVID land.

No. 8: Recognize randomness when it occurs, and get rid of it.

Randomness kills your day. Randomness kills your goals. Randomness will kill your love life. Randomness will kill your personal life.

Randomness does not help you win.


So how do you recognize it and how do you get rid of it? First, it’s very simple. Look for things that work and repeat them. And then look for things that don’t work, and don’t repeat them.

I know it sounds so simple, but people just don’t pay attention. Recognize things that work and repeat those things. Recognize things that are not working and stop doing them.

It’s amazing to me the number of people that do the wrong thing in the sales business, in the marketing business, and in business in general. And they just keep doing it. I believe they think to themselves, “If I just work harder it’s going to work out.”

And I know where this comes from. It comes from having really great parents, grandparents, or somebody who raised you say, “If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.”

Well, there’s some truth in that. I’m not trying to diminish what your parents or grandma said to you, but recognize, friends: When things aren’t working, stop doing the things that don’t work.

Conversely, when things are working, repeat the things that do work. Pay attention to them. Because these are the things that will make you successful.

No. 9: Set rewards for yourself if you need them.

Maybe your rewards look something like this, “I’m going to do this, and then if this is the end result I get a spa day for myself,” or, maybe for you it’s an expensive bottle of bourbon. Whatever that looks like for you, set rewards for yourself if you need them.

No. 10: Work your plan.

In my sales training, I encourage people to have a whiteboard in their offices. And I encourage them to write down their mini goals and their goals, and then to track themselves. The reason is, you’ve got to work your plan.

What’s your plan? Work it. If you’re not working your plan, nobody else is going to work it for you.

To recap, the 10 strategies I’ve outlined here start with setting keystone habits first. These habits are foundational and vitally important. No. 2, identify the “why” in your goal: why are you setting this goal? Why is it important to you, to your family, to your business? No 3, set mini goals—you’ve got to set at least three mini goals, on average, to get to the bigger goal. No. 4, become a time management master by time blocking your day. In sales, every day we need to prospect, retain, and propose. So block out time for it. No. 5, you’re going to fail, so plan for it. And plan to adjust your plan. The train is going to come off the tracks and you’ll need to recognize it when it does, and then have a plan to get it back on the tracks quickly. No. 6, you may need an accountability buddy. If you don’t need one, maybe your calendar is enough. But you’re probably going to be more successful with a buddy. No 7, you’ve got to know your deal count. You have to know how much it takes for you to get to a meeting. How much it takes for you to close deals. Work that sales math to your advantage. No. 8, recognize randomness and get rid of it in your life. Be deliberate. No. 9, set rewards for yourself. If you need them, set them for yourself. Then, no. 10, you’ve got to work your plan.

There you have it. This is my roadmap for sales success. It’s not the proposal template. It’s not the email templates. It’s recognizing why I’m doing things, how I’m doing things, and setting goals for myself. And here’s the thing, friends. You can do it, too. And then we’ll both see the kind of success in 2021 that we want to see.

Remember, if sales was easy everybody would be doing it, and they’re not. So we’re either crazy or we’ve found a career that will feed our families for a lifetime.















10 Ways to Close More Sales Deals—Faster

What a crazy year—it seems like it was March just yesterday! But we’re moving into that time of year when we need to close out 2020 in as strong a way as possible. And we also need to be looking at 2021 and Q1, Q2.

So what are we going to do in the remainder of 2020 to close more sales deals as we roll into the New Year, and close them faster?  Our goal as a corporate sales training company is to help you win!

Here are 10 time-tested ideas that work for me.

1-Present Options and Recommendations in the First Sales Meeting

I’ve said this before in the past, but I want to reinforce this simple fact: the conversion rate is 70% higher when you recommend a product. A full sixty percent of people make decisions based on FOMO, that fear of missing out.

So why it is that so many sales people go on a discovery meeting and then leave that meeting to create a customized solution and proposal?

In some instances, I get it—this specialization that you’re trying to bring in front of your customers. But it’s hard enough to get meetings as it is, much less have to schedule a meeting, go to discovery, leave the meeting to create a proposal, come back and track the person down to present the proposal. Then after all that they’ve got to think about it. And then you’ve got to track them down again.

You might say, “My process is a lot more streamlined.” But I doubt it. I’m here to be real with you.

So when I’m on a sales call, I’m ready to present options in that very first meeting. And I am ready to make recommendations and proposals on the spot.

2-Use Research to Your Advantage

If you want to move from the transactional selling that has been necessary during COVID to relational selling, you’ve got to use research to connect more deeply with customers.

As I share in my sales training, I use tools to do this. LinkedIn is one obvious example. And some of us have LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and it’s a really great tool. I’m also using a Chrome extension with a website called Crystal Knows ( And the shortcut is that Crystal does virtual personality profiling. The extension syncs with LinkedIn when you’re in Chrome to pull up personality profiles and traits of the people that you’re looking at. This tool is not free, but it’s not expensive, either. And I use it all the time.

So, I’m using research to connect more deeply with sales clients. It’s called “building quick trust.” And “quick trust” must be built within 5-10 seconds. You’re going to do that most effectively by having more information on the customer, their company, etc. So dig in on LinkedIn and make sure you’re prepared for all your calls.

I realize this is kind of 101, but are you actually doing it?

3-Ask Better Questions

Your questions simply have to be better. One of your main questions that makes me nuts and that I hear when I’m doing sales training is this: “Tell me more about your business.” C’mon, you’re better than that.

Or “What keeps you up at night?” Okay, c’mon, you’re better than that one, too. And then, “What’s your budget?” You can do better than that.

Those are three questions we do need to ask, but maybe ask them in a more vibrant kind of way so that we don’t sound like every other salesperson that’s calling on that customer.

Here are four that I really like to ask: 1.) “When you agreed to meet with me, what business challenge or problem were you hoping that I could help you solve?” That is one of my absolute favorites.

The next one is similar, but it’s more of a storytelling kind of approach. 2.) “If I could give you a magic wand that you wave, what would you want to see happen as far as our relationship goes—what’s your buy-in from me?” Or “If I could wave a magic wand for you, what business challenge could I help you resolve?”

The next question I like to ask is, 3.) “When you think about competing here in our community and against others in your industry, do you want to be seen as having some sort of a presence out there? Do you want to be competitive? Or do you want to be dominant?”

And the reason this works for me is because, sure, I can ask them their budget for buying whatever product I’m selling. But they’re going to give me a number based on their reality.

Let me stress it again, when I ask this question and give them those three options, that’s going to lead me towards a budget number that’s based more in actual reality–rather than simply their reality.

The other question I like to ask on a regular basis is, 4.) “If everything went perfectly, if our relationship was perfect, you buy the product I’m selling, and then … what do you want the end result to be? What would the perfect end result be for you?”

Or, more simply, you could say, “If I’m going to keep you for a lifetime as a customer, what do I need to do?”

I think those are just better questions than, “What keeps you up at night?”

4-Prepare Yourself to Talk About COVID Delays

Delays are happening right now. People are delaying Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4. Be prepared to talk about it.

Jot down the most common objections you’re going to get on one side of a piece of paper. And on the other side jot down what your answers are going to be. And be prepared for delays.

5-Revamp Your Proposal

You’ve got to think about revamping your sales proposal based upon the research that I hit on before. Let me give you two tidbits that might help motivate you to do this.

From our Sales Training World research, we’ve found that when we looked at 1,200 pages of 100 different proposals that 79% of our test users simply scanned the proposal, and only 16% actually read it. So I think we sales pros need to remove about 50% of the text from our proposals.

Another telling find in our research is that nearly all of the most successful businesses we looked at had proposals that presented three pricing options.

And then, the last finding was that these successful businesses used proposals that were full of pictures and a wealth of examples.

So, be thinking of the research out there and revamping your slide decks, your capabilities decks, and these kinds of sales tools. And again, remember that only about 16% of people actually read what it is you’re putting in front of them.

6-Give More Than One Pricing Option

Why do I love three pricing options? I love three pricing options and I stress them in my sales training because if you give somebody one choice, it’s sort of a yes or a no. If you give them two choices, now you’re starting to get them thinking. But if you give them three choices, they will typically buy the middle option.

So you create your pricing and your proposals around the middle option.

To reiterate, present three pricing options. I want to see a good, better, best in almost every situation. Or a presence, competitive, dominant—or a gold, silver, bronze.  However you word it, present three pricing options if you want to sell more.

7-Set a Very Specific After-Proposal Follow Up Plan

So you’re on the meeting (remember, I suggest you go there with a proposal), and you’ve gone there ready to sell them something—ask great questions, share testimonials, and show them what you’ve got.

Then when the client says, “I need to think about it,” you’ll be ready for that too, and you’ll be ready to implement three steps, which are No. 1, tell them “Let me back up and in 48 hours check in.”

Then No. 2, if they need more time and 48 hours isn’t enough, ask them, “If you need more time, what are we going to do?”

And finally, No. 3, ask “What if we miss each other?” which is how I psychologically try to program my customers. “If you stand me up for this date, then what?”

It’s also worth noting that we need to be prepared for when their answer is “no.” I’m not going to beat them up about it. But I might say, “I’d rather get a ‘yes,’ but if it’s going to be no just tell me ‘no.’” Or, “If the timing isn’t right, tell me ‘no’ so I can quit bothering you.”

A very specific follow up plan that I stress in my sales training is: after I get finished with my sales call, I check back in 48 hours. So, consider these follow-up statements: “If you need more time, let’s text about it.” “If we miss each other, then what?” “What do you need?” And then, “If the answer is no, tell me ‘no,’ I’m not going to beat you up about it.”

8-Talk About the Love You Have for Your Customers

A lot of times salespeople feel like they don’t want to talk about their clients. But you have to.

In the land of COVID, stranger danger is real. People are more likely to buy from you if you’ve helped other people be successful. That’s why I’m always open to share and talk freely about my other clients.

Yet, in nearly every slide deck I see, in just about every proposal that I see, there’s no mention of anybody else that we work with—our clients. Why is that?

“Well, you know, we really can’t talk about other people,” many say. But stop. We’re not talking about being unethical. I’m talking about singing from the mountaintops.

Don’t be afraid. Tell them how much you love your customers and how much they love you, and that they’re going to love working with you, as well.

Go ahead and sing that love from the mountaintops.

9-Get Clear on the Path to Making a Decision

Some people will tell you to step It up in advance. I don’t think it’s the appropriate thing to do. For example, “Okay, what’s your timeline here?” “Do you have the authority to make this decision?” That reminds me of how we used to do things in the ‘80s. And most buyers don’t respond to that.

But if I get to the end of the sales call, and they’re showing excitement, they’re giving me buying signals, I ask them, “So what does your path to making this decision look like? “You seem like you love this idea. Do you love it?” And if they say, “I love it,” then great. I’ll say, “So what’s your path to getting this approved?” and “What do you need from me?”

And then I’ll ask, “What do you think is going to be the biggest roadblock that you’re going to run across? What can I give you—video, can I reformat this slide deck for you, could I record the sales deck using a tool like Loom or Soapbox and give it to you to show your boss?”

A lot of sales trainers out there would say, “Never meet with anyone who’s not the decision maker.” Well, that’s easy to say if you’re not really responsible for selling anything.

I think we have to meet with people that are in the chain of command.

So remember to ask, “What do you need from me?” Get really clear on this with your clients and prospects.

10-Deal with It if Somebody’s Answer is “No”

If you’re going to close more sales deals, you’re going to need to rock through them. If a customer’s answer is no, I’m not going to beat them up about it.

A lot of times people will say, “Never give them the opportunity to say ‘no.’” Okay, that’s a copyright 1996.

You have to recognize that in today’s world we’re having to resell people all the time. So if you really make them angry because you jump back down their throat when you’re in full-press sales mode … if the answer is “no” or “not now,” your answer should be something like, “We’ll get together and we’ll work together at some point in the future.”

Some people will say, “Well, you never get a second chance to sell them.” I just don’t agree with that. I feel like we have to resell these people over and over again.

If the answer is “no,” that just means “not right now.” And actually, that’s alright.

Rock through those deals.

In closing, remember—I say it all the time—if sales was easy, everybody would be doing it. And they’re not. So we’re either crazy or we’ve found careers that will feed our families for a lifetime.







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7 Work From Home Strategies for Success

Let your calendar, not your inbox, drive your day.   Don’t fall victim to the idea of answering an email real quick.  We talk about this in every corporate sales training workshop.  A 30-second interruption can take you 2-minutes to reengage.  Most people thrive when a structure is in place. Randomly working on random projects at random times is not a recipe for success.  Block out time on your calendar for tasks and be dedicated when the time block pops up.  Set the task to repeat daily if needed.

Create mini-goals.   When working remotely, it is smart to set small goals that are very short term. For example, setting a goal to finish a proposal before you take a coffee break. It’s important to set little goals all throughout your day. A big win at the end of the day is normally comprised of small wins throughout the day.

Switch it up. When things aren’t rolling forward to your satisfaction, you might just need to change the routine.  If you used to have great success prospecting for new business at 4 PM and it’s not yielding the result for you that you desire, move the time block to 3 PM. Sometimes switching it up can mean rearranging your office.   All too often people stay the course when things are not working. There can be some great benefits from changing the direction if you’re not getting the results you desire.

Don’t be a web camera zombie. Creating human interaction by sharing your webcam can be extremely beneficial in team environments. All too often, a poor set up in your home office or remote location can make you look like a webcam zombie or a person in witness protection. This is sort of a joke but, it is a reality for a lot of people that work remotely.  Many people say to me, “does sharing your webcam really matter? “  Yes!  Experts tell us that 65% of important cues in conversations are visual.

Set time limits. Here have you ever looked down at your clock and realized that 90 minutes had gone by and you hadn’t even come up for air? It happens to us all. Setting time limits for everything that you do is critical to your success. Experts from various fields have reported increases in productivity from 75% to 150% by simply setting up a timer next to your desk and using it to keep you on task.

Fight the urge to multi-task. According to Neuroscientists at the Mayo Clinic, our brains aren’t built to do more than one thing at a time. And when we try to multitask, we damage our brains in ways that negatively affect our well-being, mental performance, and productivity.  Reduce stress and get more done.  Stop trying to multi-task.

Celebrate wins.   No matter the size or scope of the victory, always celebrate wins, especially if your team is working remotely. Working remotely can be an out of sight out of mind type of scenario. Create encouraging interactions by celebrating wins and uniting your team around common victories.

If there’s one thing that this health crisis has helped us understand is that we truly can survive without being in an office every single day. I truly believe that another thing has been defined, without live social interaction we are just not as happy as a team or as people. So, will we figure out how to work remotely forever? I hope not.




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Are Customer Needs Assessments Dead?

As we navigate the changes in our world right now, I think it’s important to focus on the Customer Needs Assessment as a part of my corporate sales training blog.

If you’re in a leadership role, right now you might be saying, “No, Ryan, don’t talk about not doing a CNA.”

Here’s my point, though. We’re living in a world where people are limited in cash, limited on funds, and certainly limited on patience. For the most part, I think everybody right now is actually limited to some degree in their cognitive abilities. So how do we expect someone we’re selling to to actually understand what they need vs. what they want?

Think about this regarding the Customer Needs Assessment. Very often it focuses in on what they want, and not what they need. Think about all the questions you ask. “What’s your budget?” “What are your goals?” “What keeps you up at night?” “What’s the biggest business challenge for you?” “How can we help you overcome that?”

It’s all focusing on what they want. They want paying customers, they want new business, they want to retain business. Want, want, want.

It really should be called the Customer Wants Assessment, right? Think through this with me before you shut down on the idea. Be open-minded. I sell every day, just like you do. I’ve been in sales and marketing for 30 years. I didn’t stop selling to become a consultant; I love the sales business.

So here’s a radical idea: Maybe we need to find our joy in that, in the sales business.

So this Customer Needs Assessment, where we ask them what they need—it really focuses on what somebody wants. So if we don’t actually guide them toward what they need, they’re going to come back to us in the coming weeks or months and say, “I didn’t get any ROI.” They didn’t get the return on investment that they needed. And so a lot of the time they didn’t get what they needed because we gave them what they wanted.

So here’s what I want you to consider in addition to the CNA: putting forth powerful recommendations.

Let me give you some background on my thoughts here.

There are a lot of impatient people out there right now. How many of you feel cranky right now? I feel cranky. I’m cranky about the world, I’m cranky about politics, I’m cranky about COVID. I’m just cranky. And it’s difficult to deal with cranky people you’re selling to. They try to tell you what they want, and you’re trying to convince them what they need, so I’d like to talk to you about recommendations instead.

Were you aware that Nielsen, the TV ratings and audits company, reports that recommendations are the most trusted form of information? This is a tool we can use as salespeople, and this is something I stress in my sales training. We can coach our customers on why they need something, and what they need to buy. And then we can get them to a point where we not only fulfill their wants, but we actually get to the heart of what they need.

Harvard Business Review had a review of 600 top sales professionals, and here’s what they found out: Most sales reps rely on a customer to coach them through the sales process. Now, the superstar sales reps that I work with in my sales training, we coach the customer. We know the questions we need to ask the customer to find out what it is they truly need beyond what they want.

But still, most customers are going to struggle to identify an exact need. For example, they might say, “I need more customers.” So I may say, “When you say ‘customers,’ can you be more specific? Tell me more. Give me some detail about that.”

So, to guide customers to a recommendation, I’m doing a great deal of comparative selling.

Creating a comparative conversation helps you draw out ego, helps you draw out emotion, and helps you draw out logic.

Sometimes in the advertising business, where I spend a lot of my time, I’ll say things like, “Who do you feel does a great job of marketing here in our community?” I suppose they could say, “Nobody does.” But typically they give an example of somebody.

And then I’ll say, “Do you want to be like them, better than them, less than them? Do you want to be competitive with them, or do you want to dominate them?” I work to determine what’s the circumstance for them.

What I don’t ask them is what their budget is. Because if you ask them what their budget is, they’re probably going to give you a number based on their reality. Not the reality of marketing in the community where you live.

My next tool to guide customers to a recommendation is sharing success stories through comparative selling.

Let’s say, for example, that you sell in the software space. When you create a comparative conversation, you’re actually comparing the customer that you have on the phone to other customers that you’ve had in the past that are very, very happy.

Here’s an example. When I sell, I ethically share stories about my current clients. I share what they love about me, what they love about the software, what they’ve loved about the company, what they’ve loved about the experience–and I can begin to compare customers.

I use these comparative conversations so I can recommend products based on the happiness of other customers, realizing that other customers’ happiness will oftentimes translate to the happiness of this new customer that I’m trying to get.

It’s easy—and it’s all about sharing success stories.

But sometimes we salespeople don’t like to do this, and the reason we don’t is because we feel like we’re talking about a customer behind that customer’s back. But we’re not. What we’re actually doing is shouting from the mountaintop how happy other customers are with us.

And if they’re happy, then this new customer probably will be, too. And happiness is ultimately what we’re seeking.

Now, you might get really technical about this, and you might say, “Well, Ryan, I’m not looking for happiness, what I’m looking for is making sure they have the ROI that they demand.” But I am here to tell you, when push comes to shove what most people want to do is what others have done to be successful.

Just last weekend I was talking with a friend of mine. She said, “I’m having some great luck losing weight.” I said, “Cool! I would love to drop 15 pounds. I think it would make me happy and make my wife happy. What are you doing?”

And she told me about her weight management plan. So I immediately went home and looked it up online to find out how I could get involved in this.

The point is, her success story led me to make a great buying decision, for me. This is a simple buying example, but it can resonate through everything you do.

Consider that when you have a linear conversation, a one-way conversation with a client, what you do is keep them inside their own bubble. And it’s not until somebody gets out of their bubble—OUT of it—that they realize, “Oh, other people out here are happy, they’re being successful, and I want to be like them. What are they doing? What is their weight loss plan? How did it work for them? What made them happy?”

As a salesperson, if I can help customers be happy—happy like other people–then all of a sudden they start buying what it is that I’m selling. It’s a simple sales concept that works and that resonates with customers.

I’ve had the opportunity to walk through and be a part of almost every sales training program in America, from Carnegie to Sandler. And a problem I see is that they focus on a one-way conversation where you identify somebody’s pain and then you fix that pain.

That’s great in theory, but as a salesperson you can actually take it to the next level by telling them about other happy customers whose pain you have eliminated. It’s about proving that you have done something for other people.

It’s about getting beyond the old fashioned Customer Needs Assessment to start recommending products, sharing success stories, and creating comparative conversations.

And remember, in these conversations, be mindful of the questions that you ask. Make sure those questions take you to a better place.

So, what are the questions?

I try not to ask the same questions that have been asked for the last 10-15 years, the ones that make you sound like all the other salespeople that have shown up either face-to-face, on Zoom, or on the phone.

I strive to ask the questions that other salespeople don’t. In that vein, I don’t ask, “What keeps you up at night?” I would rather ask a question, something along the lines of, “If we could help bring you one perfect customer, what would that customer look like?”

Or, “When you agreed to meet with me, was there a business challenge you were hoping that I could help you solve?”

I’ll say it again, rather than asking, “What’s your budget?” … especially in the ad sales world where I spend a lot of my time in the advertising business, I’ll say, “If we could help you be bigger and better than your nearest competitor, what would that look like?” “In the past, what have you done to solve these types of problems?”

Or I might use something back from my good old Sandler days like, “What is the biggest challenge that you’re facing right now that you think I can help you solve?” Or “How long has that been a challenge or a problem for you?” “What have you done in the past to fix that problem or remove that problem from the greater equation of your business?”

When you ask your questions, remember these ideas I espouse in my sales training programs: Most people want to be led. Most people like recommendations. Most people don’t like a linear conversation—they want to know what others are doing and what you have done to help other people.

So, in closing, the Customer Needs Assessment isn’t dead, necessarily, but if we don’t breathe some new life into it, if we keep doing the same thing we’ve always done, we’re going to get the same result. If we want to see a different result, we’ve got to do something different.

That’s why we’re advisors … try to be an advisor, don’t be a salesperson. Breathe some new life into your Customer Needs Assessment.

And managers out there—sales directors, sales leaders—look at the questions your salespeople are asking prospects and customers. Make sure that they’re updated. Make sure they reflect the current situation that we’re in.

Then finally, always remember. If sales was easy, everybody would be doing it. And they’re not. So we’re either crazy or we’ve found a career that will feed our families for a lifetime.


About this blogger:


Ryan Dohrn is an award winning sales coach and offers sales training to thousands of sales executives each year.  He is also an international motivational speaker and the author of the best-selling sales book, Selling Backwards.  Ryan is the President and founder of Brain Swell Media, a boutique sales training and sales coaching firm with a detailed focus on sales training and sales coaching for companies in 17 unique industry sectors from media to tech to aviation.  He is also the owner and Publisher of an online portal for sales training success.


Contact information:

Ryan R. Dohrn

President/Founder, Brain Swell Media LLC



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7 Ways to Reignite Sales Conversations in a Post-COVID World

The dramatic impact that the novel coronavirus has had on the United States and the world is undeniable. There are many different ways to view what has happened, and I do not wish to be political—I trust that everyone can handle politics in their own way.

For our sales conversations, though, I believe that we need to start getting back to business—whatever that means for your particular company as it relates to sales and marketing.

In that vein, let’s talk about seven ideas to help us get back to business from where we now stand. These are realizations I’m finding to work well for me in my own sales life, and that I’m sharing with others as part of my larger sales training efforts.

Idea 1: The time to get back to sales conversations is now.

There are a lot of people out there talking on the internet and social media about selling during COVID-19—and it was tough. I must reiterate: The conversations out there were tough. And now, at the time of this writing, we’re almost two months into this and the conversations are largely OK now. Maybe one out of 50 folks I’m calling on has been personally impacted or has had something happen in their families, and they’re not ready to talk. I get that. I totally get that.

It’s for those folks, when I get them on the phone, I just apologize, sympathize, and say, “Hey, when you’re ready to talk, I’m here.”

But one of the things I hear sales reps doing right now in my sales training (marketers, too) is starting every conversation with, “Hey, Bob. How are you doing?” And that’s just wrong.

Now, if you’ve known the person for a considerable period of time, then you might consider them a colleague and you might start the conversation that way.

But if you’re calling on a new prospect, and you don’t know them from anybody else, I think asking them about their personal health is not the best way to start the conversation.

In addition, everybody is starting the conversation that way. And unfortunately, it leads to a pretty negative start to a sales call.

So what I like to do is put a little different spin on it. I might say, “Hi, Bob. I’ve got some news to share with you—some good news, as a matter of fact. Would you have time for a new idea?”

Or, “Hey, Bob. I see some light at the end of the proverbial business tunnel, and I’d love to chat with you a little about some new ideas. What do you think?”

I think that’s a very appropriate way to start a sales conversation. In fact, I think it’s so important that I want to caution you again, when you start the conversation, “Hey, Bob. How’re doing?” you might get somebody who says back to you, “How the (blank) do you think I’m doing?” And again, I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t sympathize. What I’m saying is that everybody is starting the conversation with, “Hey, how are you going?” and a lot of the time it leads to a pretty negative conversation and gets things off to a fairly negative start.

In the end, though, how you kick off the first conversation is up to you and to your personal preferences. For me, it was a bit tough to get past the “Hey, how are you doing?” It really was, and so I get that.

To recap, if you’ve had a relationship with somebody for years, it’s natural that you’ll want to ask them how they’re doing.

But otherwise, my advice is to always start the conversation with a bit more positive phrasing—to kick off a more positive conversation.

Idea 2: Recognize that a lot of people are still working from home.

Here’s what’s really interesting about COVID-19 on a positive side, if there is a positive side. And that’s that everybody pretty much knows how to do a GoToMeeting or a Zoom meeting. They’re comfortable with it and that makes it a little bit easier to sell that way.

We taught my mom how to run a Zoom meeting the other night. So c’mon, if I can teach my mom how to run a Zoom meeting, if you do happen to run across somebody who really doesn’t know how and is not the most technologically savvy, you can teach them, too.

But since many people are still working from home, the odds of catching them in a non-distracting environment are good. There are always spouses and kids and pets, but there isn’t typically the normally distracting business environment. (And if you looked your customer or sales prospect up on LinkedIn, you might be prepared and already know they have six kids, or whatever the case may be, as they’re working from home.)

So to recap here, recognize that a lot of people are still working from home.

Idea 3: Respect that prospecting times have changed, marketing times have changed, and reception times have changed.

So first off, let’s talk about pre-COVID times. In pre-COVID times I’d be telling you to call folks at 11:15 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. I choose 11:15 because most people don’t book meetings before lunch, so there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get through to them. And then 4:15 because most people don’t book meetings before going home, so your chances of getting through to them are pretty good.

Well, during COVID and post-COVID, 4 p.m. has become the new 5 o’clock. So for me that afternoon time block has definitely changed. It’s turned into more like a 3:15 prospecting block.

But what about the morning time block? I’m noticing that a lot of people are responding to emails earlier in the day. So what I’ve been doing is changing the 11:15 time block to more like a 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. time block—specifically for prospecting.

Here’s the takeaway on that. Look at your client list, monitor your CRM, and look to see when people are responding to your sales calls. Then, as always, friends, keep your emails, keep your marketing short.

Recognize that from a marketing standpoint it’s best to reach people not at random times, but at times that you’re going to get the very best open rate. And be aware that times have changed.

Idea 4: Work with people on their deadlines.

In a post-COVID world, there’s going to be urgency of deadlines as people get back to some semblance of normalcy.

So rather than asking needs, goals, and desires, what I’m really focusing in on are, “What are your deadlines?” Or, “As you get back to work, what are the deadlines being placed on you?” And I look at this from a technology perspective, from a marketing perspective, and from a sales perspective—and then I work backwards from those deadlines.

See, a lot of times in the sales world we sell forward, meaning that we work with folks and we try to push them into our sales funnel, rather than us working with their particular sales funnels or buying cycles.

So one of the things I’m doing and that I’m teaching in my sales training is how to really get intimate with sales contacts’ and prospects’ deadlines. My questions might go like this, “What are your deadlines? “What do you have coming up?” and “What’s going on for you?” And that way I back myself into success as a sales person. I use their own deadlines to potentially drive the conversation forward from my perspective.

Idea 5: You are more likely to do business with somebody post-COVID that you’ve already done business with in the past.

Why is that? That’s because there are two things in sales that really stop us. No 1., with new customers there’s that “stranger danger” effect, and stranger danger is real.

And no. 2, there are going to be valid health issues—safety concerns that your prospects and customers have.

Some of you in the past have been really big on getting face-to-face with your customers. And I’m going to say that over the next six months or so, getting face-to-face is probably going to be pretty unlikely.

The good news though, as I said before, is that people are getting very proficient with Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, and that kind of thing. So I think that video selling has become a new thing that is very important for all of us to embrace.

In addition, you truly are more likely to get a referral from a past customer. So, what’s your referral program? Personally, I like to refer business. I think it’s good for business. I think people appreciate it, but you have to ask yourself, “What am I really going to get in terms of a referral?” And then you have to consider whether or not you have a good referral program.

Idea 6: You must set time blocks and create a good rhythm.

Doing this can really help you get focused. When you’re setting these time blocks, ask yourself, “How has the time zone changed in a post-COVID world?” Think of that, and then realize that you need to get religious about those time zones, those time blocks.

Block them out. Pay attention to those time zones. And really live and die by them. Get consistent. Randomness is really not going to help you.

I share in my sales training that I also use lists in my CRM to keep me focused. Whether you tag customers in those lists, or whatever you do in your process, in those time zones I like to work a lot of lists in my sales efforts. And I think that’s vitally important for sales success.

Idea 7: Sales is a numbers game that you can use to your advantage.

I love relationships, but when push comes to shove math doesn’t lie. So make sure you understand how many sales calls you will need to make and how many emails will you need to send to get a meeting booked with somebody.

And then once you book that meeting, how many sales meetings does it take for you to actually get a closed deal? Use that math to reach sales success.

So to close, it’s OK to sell in a post-COVID world. Of course, be sympathetic, but just realize that now is the time to sell. Get back to work. Stay ahead of the game. And I think we’re going to be successful in a post-COVID world.







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