Traits of Top Salespeople

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Tag: trap

Don’t Ever Give Up

Don’t Ever Give Up

In the past, I have written that there is no crying in sales. When you lose, you need to get back on the horse and keep going. This is excellent advice, but you also cannot give up on that prospect that just rejected you.

There is a chance that your product is a “one and done” type of product and therefore the customer will never repurchase a similar product. However, most products are not that way. In fact, many products that are sold from one business to another business are continuously used and repeatedly purchased. The first order is just that, only the first order.

In most situations, you only lost the first order. Yes, this might put you in a disadvantage for the longer term purchases, but it doesn’t disqualify you.

I still remember the first time I lost to a DIY (Do It Yourself) solution which is a frequent competitor in the software industry. I was calling on a company in Minneapolis MN (I live in Cincinnati OH). The company was a high-tech company, and they had a lot of astute, young professionals. I was very late to the sales cycle and found out about the prospect’s need after they had done a lot of work at identifying how to achieve their goals. If you have read my book, Eliminate Your Competition, you can easily guess that I was in trouble from the very beginning.

I only had a few people identified in the Power Matrix. I had not had the time to develop relationships with multiple levels of the organization.

Being that late caused me to lose the deal. The engineering team at the customer convinced the division manager that they could engineer the solution themselves with some open-source software and off-the-shelf computer add-ons. Four weeks after learning about the customer’s need, I received a phone call that I had lost.

The loss was my fault. I was outsold by the internal engineering team. Time to get back on the saddle.

My manager told me to shake it off as I was obviously column fodder. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, column fodder is when the customer only looks at your product to prove to “management” that the evaluation was complete and covered enough competitors to ensure that the assessment was fair.

I don’t like being column fodder. I don’t like to lose either.

I called up the admin of the VP of the division and asked for an appointment with him in two days. This is back when most executives had an administrative assistant and that person actually answered the phone. I had met with him once before, but it was a brief conversation, and I was still learning what was important to him. The only thing I knew for sure is that he was very demanding of his team and that he had severe deadlines on this project. She informed me that John (not his real name) was in all day, but his calendar was booked. I told her that I understood that he was busy, but I really needed to see him, and I would be sitting in the company lobby all day in the hopes that he could see me.

I flew to Minneapolis and arrived in the company lobby at 7:15A. I had two documents with me that I thought would make a difference to John. It was the dead of winter, and it was frigid outside. The lobby was merely a security entrance with a security guard and three plastic chairs against a window that let much of that Minneapolis cold seep through the glass. Unfortunately, it was not the employee entrance, so I was not able to “ambush” John as he came to work.

The two documents that I had in my possession were the tools to set the only trap that I could set. I didn’t know if it would be good enough this late in the decision cycle. It was the same trap that I would have wanted to set weeks or months earlier, but I couldn’t because I was late. This one trap had to be so good that John would need to use it to override the wishes of his own engineering department. I was a Trapper and just like I would write in my book many years later, I knew exactly what I had to say to make the trap work. I assumed that my internal competitor had left me this one opening and I had to play it. My major goal was that this meeting would allow me to stop an existing decision. My minor goal was that maybe they would implement the homemade solution once, but they would turn to my company for the rollout of a purchased solution. Failure of either of those goals would mean that I was going home to Cincinnati empty-handed.

Larry, the security guard (his real name), was amazed that I was there to see a VP without an appointment. But he was kind enough to call John and tell the admin that I was there. At 8:30 (1 hour and 15 minutes after I arrived), Larry took pity on me and called again and said I was still in the lobby. This time John walked out and started laughing. He said he had heard about annoying salespeople camping in a lobby, but he had never seen it himself.

John brought me back to his office. He explained that he had full faith in his engineering team to create a solution that would satisfy his needs and that I wasted the plane flight to MSP. I thanked him for his time and explained that it was my fault that we were in this situation. If I had known about their needs earlier then we would have had this exact meeting several weeks ago. It was my fault that we had not had this conversation and I appreciated that he was allowing me to have the discussion now. I told him that I just wanted him to look at two documents and then I would leave. He agreed to see the documents.

The two documents that I placed on his desk were the annual report for his company and the annual report for my company. I asked him to find where in his annual report his company attested to being experts in the creation of this type of software. I followed up this question with a request to look at my company’s report and how many times we explained how we were experts in this area. He didn’t reply (I didn’t expect him to).

Then I laid it out to him. “John, you told me when we met three weeks ago that you demanded excellence from your team and you were proud of their accomplishments. You also told me that this project was critically important to your company and, in fact, your CEO says in your annual report that your company is in a highly competitive industry and constant improvements in this area are critical for the health of the corporation. Our company is obviously excellent in this area, but yours is obviously going to be learning for the first time. What are you going to tell your CEO if your engineering team is not excellent enough? Your excellence is in making your product. My excellence is making our product. Don’t you think you should reduce your risk and not hope that your engineering team is as good as mine when we have been doing this for years?”

And then I was silent. I didn’t say a word.

Finally, John said, “How do you know we cannot create this solution?”

“John, I don’t know. They might pull it off. But I do know that there is no question that my software can do everything that has been described to me that you need. Why are you taking this risk?”

“My engineering team says they can do it cheaper than buying it from your company. Especially, since we have to roll it out for over 100 installations.”

“Your annual report doesn’t say that cost is an issue. It says that if you don’t drive improvements in your product, then you will lose your position in the market. Why are you talking about cost when the risk of failure is the driving factor?”

He was silent for a long time after that question, but I knew that I had won when he finally responded.

“Can you wait in our cafeteria while I meet with my team? I promise it won’t take more than an hour.”

After 45 minutes of drinking hot coffee in the cafeteria (I was still cold from sitting in that cold lobby for over an hour), John walked into the cafeteria with the two lead engineers on his team.

I closed the deal two weeks later for list price. The deal doubled in size 6 months later with a repeat order due to the success of my product and the customer’s product. I blew away my quota that year. I would never have done that if I gave up on this order. I would never have won the order if I didn’t understand my prospect’s true issues and align the benefits of my offering to those issues.

Don’t ever give up. No means not yet. You will never be column fodder if you understand what is really important to your prospect. You must be prepared to explain how you help your customer achieve their goals even if the customer doesn’t want to hear it. The opportunity will come with persistence and perseverance.

I leave you with a quote by President Calvin Coolidge almost a century ago.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Header Photo by skeeze (Pixabay)
Calvin Coolidge photo courtesy of Wikipedia and in open domain
Great Salespeople Must Be Good Listeners

Great Salespeople Must Be Good Listeners

It has been said that “Rapt attention is the highest form of flattery.” I believe that Dale Carnegie said that quote first, but it is hard to tell and actually doesn’t matter. The quote is insightful.

If you want people to listen to you, then you need to listen to them. To truly listen to someone–not just to hear the words the other is saying but to pay attention to the message contained in the words–is the highest compliment we can give another person. It means that the other person is important enough to us so that we are willing to give him or her our most valuable commodity: our time.

Listening can provide a bond of intimacy that deepens our connection to others. It can enrich our personal relationships. It can increase our earning potential as a professional salesperson.

Listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with practice. It is difficult to fully concentrate on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the speaker. Here are some guidelines:

  • Minimize both internal and external distractions.
  • Show you’re listening by your nonverbal communication and physically demonstrate empathy to the speaker. Some self-help tomes that discuss listening will tell you to maintain a neutral physical position and not respond to the speaker. This is silly and unnatural. Show that you are indeed human and react to the speaker’s thoughts appropriately. The reaction will help you actively engage in the opinions being presented by the speaker.
  • Don’t interrupt and don’t be judgemental. Let the person finish what he is saying before you explain your point of view or ask questions. (More on this below)
  • Stay focused on the subject.
  • Be prepared to clarify and summarize what you are hearing. This will become even more obvious in the next few paragraphs, but you need to remind yourself that you are going to use this what the speaker is saying later in the conversation. This may require you to take physical notes but, at a minimum, you will need to make mental notes.

Once you have listened to what your prospect is saying, you need to do nothing. Take a breath. It doesn’t need to be a cleansing breath to relieve stress, but breathing is a great clock manager. Most adults do a complete breath cycle (in-then-out) in about three or four seconds when you are not exercising. Three or four seconds is a significant pause. During that pause, continue to look directly at the now silent speaker.

There are two reasons for the one-breath pause. The first reason is you need time to think about what you heard, and you need time to think about what you are going to say. The second reason is that nature abhors a vacuum and it is very likely that the speaker will fill this silence with more words. In that case, you will have more information about the next thing to say. In almost every case, you do not want to speak until the other person is completely done speaking (remember the “don’t interrupt” rule above).

During this one-breath pause, you must decide what kind of Trap has been just set for you. Make no mistake about it, if the prospect has just talked to you about things that pertain to you, your company, or your product then it is a Trap. I explain this much more in my book Eliminate Your Competition, but every response that you have to deal with is a type of a Trap. The three types of Traps are:

  1. Accidental Traps – this is honest information gathering by the prospect, not an actual evil Trap designed to destroy you. It is an opportunity to lose the sale, and it is an opening to Trap the competition.
  2. Unintentional Traps – In this case, the prospect doesn’t know he is being used by the competition. This is the most frequent type of Trap.
  3. Collaborative Traps – Competitors place these Traps with the full knowledge and assistance of the prospect. Collaborative Traps are relatively rare in most sales campaigns, but they are the most dangerous if misdiagnosed.

I discuss this in much more detail in my book. You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Now you need to respond. It takes practice to respond effectively. This practice should be in the comfort of your home or office. Maybe a co-worker or manager can help but if not, practice with a mirror.

Your response should be to escape the Trap that was just set for you and set a Trap in return. Remember, you are not trying to Trap your prospect; you are Trapping your competitors. Also, it is not a bad thing that you help your prospect find deficiencies in your competitor’s offering; you are helping them to make a sound decision with all of the facts. Also, you cannot set an effective Trap if you do not listen intently.

The four primary steps in escaping a Trap are:

  1. Clarify the meaning of the question.
  2. Acknowledge the business importance of the request.
  3. Respond to the request with a well-thought-out answer.
  4. Using the steps below, set a Trap that is similar to the original request.

The four steps in Trap setting are:

  1. Develop the need with Bait (this is explained more fully in my book Eliminate Your Competition).
  2. Confirm that you meet the need.
  3. Question whether the competition meets the need.
  4. Request feedback on how the competition responds.

If you haven’t read my book Eliminate Your Competition, this may seem difficult to pull off. Hopefully, after you have read my techniques in the book and you have practiced it a few times, it becomes easier to accomplish.

Escaping a collaborative or accidental Trap is much more critical and challenging to accomplish than escaping an unintentional Trap. The successful Trapper understands that he will lose the sales campaign if he cannot listen effectively and escape Traps.

Header Photo by Couleur (Pixabay)
You Lost The Deal – Get Over It! There’s No Crying In Sales

You Lost The Deal – Get Over It! There’s No Crying In Sales

You lost. The customer decided to use a competitor’s product. You will not be getting that commission check.


I will not insult you by saying that it is just business and wasn’t personal. It is affecting you in a very particular way. You may feel inadequate or anger. You may also be in disbelief. You may be frustrated and disenfranchised. You may also have some fear and doubt. There may be some loss of income or anticipated income due to this loss, and now you will have to tell your significant other that the check won’t be as big.

Worse than all of those feelings, you may feel shame within your peer group and your company.

These are all common feelings, and you shouldn’t kid yourself into believing that they aren’t there. Instead, you should deal with these feelings head on and accept them. Plenty of ‘feel good’ books out there will lift your spirits, and my book is not one of them, and this site is not for crying.

To steal Tom Hanks’ line:

There is no crying in sales.

The best advice I have is to get right back out there and keep selling. You need to internalize these feelings and make them motivate you to accomplish more and be more successful. You have just felt emotions that you don’t like and don’t want to feel again. Use this as motivation to avoid these bad feelings again or to have the desire to inflict these emotions on your competitors.

Ask yourself these questions (if you haven’t read my book Eliminate Your Competition then these may not make sense – maybe that is why you lost).

  • Did you fill in every box of the Power Matrix? Were all those people unique?
  • Did you set up a Relationship Map that mapped all of your resources to the appropriate person at the prospect?
  • Did you set up Personal Vision Goals for every person in the Power Matrix?
  • Were you late to the deal and you acted like a Hunter rather than a Trapper?
  • Did you lay out the evaluation plan for the prospect?
  • Did you lay traps for all of your competitors?
  • Should you have focused on the winning competitor differently? Was it an A competitor that has similar capabilities or was it a B or C competitor that took the evaluation into your weaknesses.
  • Did you effectively sell your product, your company, and yourself?

If you don’t understand these questions, then you need to spend time with my book Eliminate Your Competition. It is designed to help you win more frequently and maximize your commission. You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

You were outsold! Don’t make any other excuses for the loss. Accept it – you got beat. Now you must figure out what things caused you to be outsold. The wise outdoorsman trapper inspects all of his traps that are empty to find out if there is something wrong that the prey got away. You need to do that yourself if you want to be a Trapper. Hunter’s miss the target all the time and they make the excuse that the prey moved at the last second causing the miss. Farmer’s blame it on the environment when their efforts don’t produce results. Gatherers talk about all of the other business that they still have for that customer. However, a Trapper figures out what went wrong:

  • Did they not understand the prey?
  • Why didn’t the trap work?
  • Did they not place the trap in the correct location?
  • Did they use the wrong type of bait?

The big issue here is that you do not lie to yourself. You can lie to your boss. You can lie to your spouse. You can lie to everyone else, but do not lie to yourself.

Did you really do everything you could to win that deal?

Answer the above questions. Learn from your loss. Now get back up on that horse and make it happen.

Header Photo by JamesDeMers (Pixabay)
What Type of Bait Are You Using to Find Your Prospects?

What Type of Bait Are You Using to Find Your Prospects?

To be an effective salesperson (in other words, a Trapper), you must learn to create and use Bait.

Bait is information prepared to encourage the prospect to react in a certain way. Bait allows you to create a Trap that influences and controls a prospect.

Creating Bait may be very easy for you because your employer has adopted Trapper techniques. Others may struggle because your company has not realized how to perform many of the background steps of Bait development. Regardless of the tools provided by your company, the development and deployment of Bait is ultimately the salesperson’s responsibility.

If you do not understand the true driving reasons behind the prospect’s actions, you increase your chance of failure. Without this knowledge, you will only be delivering a pre-canned message to your prospect and will win only a small percentage of your sales campaigns.

Once you understand the exact reasons for the prospect’s interest, you can decide which unique benefits to explain. To do this, you must evaluate the competition and deduce which benefits you offer have an advantage over the competition and are of interest to the prospect.

Upon understanding the prospect’s reasons and identifying your unique benefits, you must deliver this information to the prospect in a way that is memorable, convincing, and persuasive. This will set up the prospect for a Trap that should help eliminate the competition.

It is very important to understand that if you have no difference between you and your competition, you have nothing to sell. Identify those differences and focus your time on explaining the value of the differences.

I spend a lot of time helping you create Bait in my book “Eliminate Your Competition” which helps salespeople become more effective. You may purchase my book “Eliminate Your Competition” from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.