Sales Training : Be Interested THEN be Interested #2

This is a follow up and taking a different slant from our previous blog …

Be Interested then be Interesting #1

When meeting new people, many people put themselves under pressure to talk.
Their head is filled with fears like “What should I talk about? What shall I say? ”
They enter these initial encounters with themselves at the centre of their mind!
They forget about the other person because they’re too busy thinking of what to say!
They’re not really listening at all..
A conversation with them is merely taking it in turns to talk.

Don’t rack your brains thinking of things to say. Think questions and listen well.
That way you invite the other person to do most of the talking.

We suggest that when you go into a situation where you are meeting someone for the first time, go into that encounter with only one thing on your mind – THEM.
Treat that person like they are the most important person in the world.
Why? Because to that person they are the most important person.

To build rapport you need to find common ground. Yes?
How do you find common ground? You need to discover it.
How do you discover it? Be curious and ask questions about the other person.
You know the possible common ground from your side.
Your challenge is to get the other person talking so that you can discover Their common ground with you.

Let’s get them talking.  What do other people like to talk to about?

1. Themselves
Get them to talk about their favourite subject with questions like

  • “What are YOU up to these days?”
  • ” What’s the job you do for Oracle? and What does that entail?”
  • “What are the top 3 things you do for your business?”
  • “Tell me about yourself “
  • Alternatively you may want to say ” Go on then , give me the two minute elevator pitch on you” .
    • That avoids you standing there for 30 minutes listening to a complete life history
  • * “I hear YOU have been doing this…Is that correct? “

2. Opinions:

Ask questions like

  • “What do you think of the traffic getting here tonight?”
  • “What is your opinion on the Tube strike?”
  • “What do you think of that TV programme last night?”
  • “Does your business have issues with this?”
  • “Lots of our clients are saying they have issues with this. Is that something you’ve dealt with?”

3. People :

Ask questions like

  • “Would you vote for them if they asked you to?”
  • “Do you know anyone who can help me with this isssue?”
  • “I really like John’s sense of humour. Do you?”

4. Things:

Ask questions like

  • “I love YOUR car, how old is it?”
  • “Are you APPLE or Microsoft?”
  • “iphone or Android”

When they ask about you and then it is your turn.
When you do talk however, link it into what the other person has already said and you’ll be on common ground.
They’ll have a great conversation with you.

Try this and let us know how you get on
and Do read the other blog too Be Interested then be Interesting #1

Interviewer Skills Training: What does great look like as an Interviewer?: 3 more ideas

Everyone agrees hiring the right people is so important…

Why then do we find managers happy to “Shoot from the Lip”.
Many rock up and start asking questions. Different questions at random.
Lots have never been trained on how to interview. Our Interviewer Skills Training Workshopcould help?
They relegate themselves to being poor or at best mediocre interviewers.
Perhaps if they were trained they may hire better people
And hey don’t better people build better businesses?

Our view is that if you want to find the best employees you must be the best interviewer you can be.

Here are some more  of our ideas as to what being the best Interviewer you can be might look like

4. You aim for a conversation, not an examination.

If you have researched and found two areas of possible common ground that’s a great way to start a conversation.
Focus on matching and mirroring their body language and pacing their movements until you get to rapport.
Then have a great conversation between adults

5. You are easy to talk to

Nervous candidates can take a little time to warm up and they may not come over well to begin with.
You can help.
Some roles do require the ability to instantly establish rapport (like sales).
In many others a lack of conversational skills does not necessarily signal a lack of expertise.
Ask a question about a hobby or outside interest.
Ask easy questions to start and put them at ease.
Help them settle in and gain confidence.
Remember it about them not you.

6. You are happy to go for a deep dive on certain questions.

You need an interview plan.
You need to ask specific well thought out and prepared questions.
However that’s not all. Some of the best questions are follow-up questions.
Follow-up questions take you into the details.
“That be where treasure lies” to quote Long John Silver
Ask how, ask why or when. Ask “Tell me more”.
Who did what? What did you learn from failure?
What made a task fun?
Ask what the candidate would do differently with hindsight, and why.

Not only will you get past the canned responses, you’ll also learn details—positive and negative—the candidate never planned or would have thought to share.

Watch out for our final installment in this series


Interviewer Skills Training: What does great look like? 3 ideas for you

Everyone agrees hiring the right people is so important…

Why then do we find managers happy to “Shoot from the Lip”.
Many rock up and start asking questions.
Different questions at random.
Lots have never been trained on how to interview.
(Our Interviewer Skills Training Workshop might help here)
They relegate themselves to being poor or at best mediocre interviewers.
Perhaps if they were trained they may hire better people
And hey don’t better people build better businesses?

Our view is that if you want to find the best employees you must be the best interviewer you can be.

Here are some of our ideas as to what being the best you can be might look like

1.  Do your Preparation:

A great employee comes into an organisation with promise.
Yes they can do the job day 30 and yes they’ll fit in a box on the org chart>
However they have lots of other things that you’re going to find a use for.
They’ll have a cultural fit with your company. How are you going to test for that?
You’re going to want results in the job? Have they delivered similar results in similar roles?
How are you going to find that out at the interview?

They will need a set of skills and experience.
Are you going to ask all the candidates the same set of questions?

If you ask them the question “Have you had experience with Oracle 7.2?”
Please expect a Yes, but prepare yourself for a surprise in six months time.
When they say “But not THAT level of experience” and you have to find someone else.

If you’re hiring for sales how about preparing them to demonstrate how they go through a sales process with their current products.
Get them to bring a case study.
What questions did they ask?
What benefits did the solution offer to the customer?
What was the ROI?
And at the interview ask if they’ll give you the case study prospect name as a reference?

2. You ensure candidates are prepared.

Your process should do this each and every time:
Tell them exactly when, exactly where, exactly who will be conducting the interview(s)…
They should know everything. If it’s a group interview tell them exactly that.
Remember this is a two way process.
You are selling the right candidate your company from the moment they first interact with you.
Do not put the best people off.

3. Do your research on the candidate.

The CV is a good starting point: What jobs?
What qualifications? What results? What achievements?
Job hopper? Promoted yes but how frequently?
Same level just moving sideways?
Interests?  What projects?

On to social media.
What interests?
How might that fit in your company’s culture?
What’s their network like?
What does that say about professional interests?

Watch out for more ideas on what great might look like for you as an interviewer


Communications Skills Training: Good Conversations are not an accident

Good Communicators have to plan and work at conversations.

(We cover this in some of our Communications Skills Training Workshops for example

This is for those times when good conversations can be VERY important ..
Ask yourself “What am I trying to achieve with this conversation” before you have it.

You can if you want to “wing it”.
However if it’s an important or sensitive issue, we think that is very dangerous.
Conversations do have an ability to get off track.
If that happens what you are trying to get across can be easily misunderstood.

Developing a clear idea of what you want to achieve and how you might go about it, is the foundation of good face-to-face conversations.

Be Clear on your goal or outcome.

When you’re talking with the other person, keep coming back to it.
It helps to keep you focused on what you are trying to achieve.

Don’t let the discussion becoming one sided.
That’s when you go on and on.
Listen as well as speak. Have a conversation.
Don’t talk “at” the other person, talk “to” them.
When we don’t listen to the other person, we shut them out.
The person you are talking “at” will just switch off or “tune out”.

A good communicator will stay focused, be clear and succinct.
Check that the other person has understood what you’ve been saying.
Try asking them to summarise back what they’ve heard.

Tip: You know you’re not listening if you are spending time rehearsing what you will say next
Talking over them is another sure-fire way of limiting your ability to listen.

Putting the characteristics of effective communication into a list…
These would probably our most critical items:

For the Conversation initiator

  • Plan carefully what you want your core message to be
  • Consider the existing knowledge and interest of your intended audience/receiver
  • Work out how your message should best be tailored and delivered.
  • Be as clear, and concise as you can when you make points (don’t waffle)
  • Leave time/space for responses from the receiver
  • Listen as much or more than you talk
  • Respond to the receiver’s questions clearly and without getting side-tracked
  • Keep listening

For the conversation responder (or message receiver)

  • Listen to the full message that is being communicated
    • (both the words and between the lines)
  • Don’t look bored or uninterested
  • Don’t avoid eye contact
  • Don’t look distracted(doodling, playing with paper clips etc)
  • Demonstrate as much warmth and empathy as appropriate
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding wherever you need to
  • “Parrot-Phrase” and paraphrase to check that your understanding is on track
  • Ask the message sender to stay on track when you think the conversation is wandering.

Career Coaching : The Trap Door Question:

On an initial interview the interviewers questions often begin with:  “Tell me about yourself”

This is one of the most common interview questions.


(We;d cover this kind of topic and others in the Career Coaching Service )

You need to have your answer formulated.

The questions to ask yourself is Where to start, where to end and what to focus on!

Prepare well for this question and you can use it as a great opportunity to sell yourself.
Prepare it badly and it can be a trap-door question.
That’s where the interviewer is reaching for the “End the interview trap-door” lever.

You will need to frame your answer to highlight how your skills, knowledge and experience relate to the job and the company profile.
The interviewer wants to know if you will fit in with the rest of the team, their department and the company.

The interviewer is also trying to find out what motivates you and whether it is consistent with what the job and the company offer.

If you are still talking 10 minutes later about where you were born and grew up, or what pets you have, or how much your enjoy contemporary music then the probability is the trap door is opening. These kind of statements are not likely to show the interviewer why you are a good candidate for the job opportunity.
Make your interview answer relevant to the job role, the company and it’s style.
For this question all of that needs to take around 2 to 3 minutes maximum.

You can practice this on your partner, on a parent, on a peer, on a colleague and with your coach if you have one.

It should not be the same every time because every job role every company will be different however there should be a few common elements.

Keep the trap-door firmly shut by practicing answering this question.

Business Development Training: Avoiding The Trap-Door Question

So what’s a trap door question, you’re asking yourself.

This occurs at the start of a meeting with a new person in a new client.

They may well be a little uncomfortable and unsure as to how to start the meeting.

They say something like …

“Tell us a bit about yourselves”

or  “Tell us about your company and what it does”

or they  may say “Could you give us an overview of your company and it’s services” .

Warning ! Warning! Sounds of Claxons … Lights Flashing …
You are standing on the trap door!!

(we’d cover this and other topics as part of our Business Development Training Workshops)

There are four things you can say in reply to this question.

Tactics 1 and  2 : Open the trap door (and you fall down the hole)

Tactics 3 and 4 : Nail it shut

Tactics 1 and 2

Tactic 1.

This is where you crack your knuckles ,which may have been dragging on the floor, rotate your head on your neck to prepare.  Then you deliver a blistering 30 minute corporate pitch that your colleagues and peers would stand on chairs to applaud.
To be greeted in this case with silence and sounds of shuffling feet and papers.
You may even detect tumbleweed and a chill wind blowing through the room

Tactic 2.

This is where your days of preparation are about to pay off.
You deliver a pitch that absolutely nails exactly what you and your consultants think the clients need in terms of services and products.
You have prepared well and decided exactly what they need and now is the time to tell them.
They gave you a chance and you took it….
Just so you know …   in our training we rather unflatteringly call this the “product vomit”

From the bottom of the pit of despond a few days later when you are not chosen to take part in further discussions…  You may realise at  the time that either of the above answers were WRONG.
They were not wrong from a factual or presentation style or demonstrating that the client was important enough for you to prepare.  They are just WRONG from a timing point of view.
The client is looking for someone who listens to their needs and understands their goals.
Someone who develops rapport with them. Someone to trust.
Not some crazed salesperson who just wants to sell them something after just walking through the door.

When you stare up from the bottom of the pit of despond you can reassure yourself in one way…  As you look around the walls of the pit you’ll see ALL of our initials there.  We’ve all been there , done it and lived to regret it .

Tactics 3 & 4.

Tactic 3. Your elevator Pitch

This is where you have really prepared…
Woodrow Wilson was famously quoted as saying
” If I am to speak for 10 minutes I need a week of preparation.
If it’s 15 minutes I need 3 days
If it’s an hour I’m ready now”

What you need in your repertoire is what lots of people call their “Elevator pitch”.  
The idea is that it last as long as an elevator takes from the ground floor to the penthouse.
In it you say who you work with , what things you do for / with them and have an example of the benefits you deliver, that are relevant to the client in front of you.
It should take you no more than 2 minutes… It will probably take you a few days to craft one if you haven’t done one before.


Tactic 4. Asking a Power Question:

The final recommendation is that you ask a question rather than answer the one asked of you.

Try this one.   ” What would you like to know about us?”  And now shut up.

If the answer that comes back is still a little general then probe again.

” Just so I really understand it , I wonder if you could say a little more about why you’re interested in hearing about that”.
Keep going until you’ve got a really good idea as what your new client really wants to hear about.

As you pass the Pit of Despond on your way to the Heights of Success give a thought to the people down there.
You were there once.

Good Rainmaking



Rainmaker Challenge # 3

Services businesses are desperate to turn their people into Business Developers.
Many face common challenges. This sequence of blogs attempts to help with common issues

Rainmaker Challenge#3:
Getting in front of the people with authority to buy services.

This challenge usually starts with a conversation
“I have trouble getting meetings with the people who have the ability to hire me.
How do I get to know these people and how do I get them to know me?”

Our suggestion is that you first start with your personal network.
Who do you already know that knows those decision makers?
Can you ask for introductions at a conference you are both attending?
Can you get one of your contacts to set up a lunch for the three of you?
Can you ask for permission to use a friend’s name when you contact the person?
If there’s no one in your network who knows the target prospect, work out where the persons spends time.
Look for venues where clients, potential clients and referral sources for the type of work that you do tend to congregate.
What organisations do they belong to? What conferences do they attend?
If you have trouble identifying these types of organisations, talk to your librarian and marketing team.
Once you’ve identified these places, show up there.
However do remember, building any funnel or book of business by attending networking events takes a long time.
It is highly unlikely to produce results in the short term, so plan on investing 3-5 years in the process.
(That’s why it’s always best to start with people you already know!)

The Challenges of a Rainmaker… #1

Business Development for Services Deliverers :

Rainmaker Challenge#1:  Getting clients or prospects to respond to your e-mails.

The issue surfaces as something like …
“I invite clients to have lunch and I don’t hear back from them.
I guess this means they really aren’t interested in getting together.”

Do you really think that’s true? Do your clients and prospects not want to talk to you?
You do offer value added services that improve revenues or cut costs don’t you?
Or do the services reduce risks, improve client satisfaction or improve productivity?
Maybe they just make the client compliant in some way?
Why would they not want to see you?
Wouldn’t you see someone who could do that for you?

Now ask yourself this question.

Do you have unanswered e-mails in your inbox? (I know I do!) People are very very busy;
Their inboxes are full of e-mails that range from urgent/important to annoying /unimportant.
Given that reality, returning your e-mail may just not be as high a priority for them as getting a response to that e-mail is to you.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to get more responses to your invitations:

  1.  Ask again.
    One or two non-responses do not a rejection make.
  2.  Make a call instead of e-mailing
    (and leave a really good voice mail if you don’t speak to them ).
  3.  Try at a different time of day.
    Their schedule may be less frantic on Friday afternoon than on Monday morning
    After hours may be a better time than the middle of the day.
    Early better for them than late
  4. Make your invitation VERY specific
    Please don’t write something like “Let’s have lunch soon,”.
    Much better to ask “Are you available for lunch on Monday, January 10, or Wednesday, January 12?”
    Or give them a window of time — the morning of the 20th or the afternoon of the 25th — for a phone call.
    If they’re not available on the dates you suggest, ask them specifically to counter with dates or times they are available.
  5. Consider inviting them to something other than lunch.
    Lots of people tend to eat lunch at their desk. Suggest breakfast.
    How about dropping by their office for 15 minutes and bringing along their favorite Starbucks order?
    Maybe an early evening phone or skype meeting ?
    Connecting at a conference you both plan to attend?Try also taking a look at another Rainmaker blog
    Sales Tips: Stalking or merely persistance?
    What to do when your prospects goes to radio silence          

Communication Skills: Be INTERESTED then Be INTERESTING

“Be Interested THEN be Interesting” is a mantra of ours.

We think it’s especially true when you meet someone new for the first time, whether that’s a new prospect, a new colleague, someone else’s customer or a new contact on your network.

However we know that we can all fall into bad habits and still feel that we are being effective.

After all, how difficult is it to have a conversation with a potential client, new partner, or colleague?

It is however amazing how many times, in our work lives, we can easily and successfully sink our own initiatives by making every wrong move as we communicate.

We thought that it might be a little fun to list a few of the ones we’ve seen, done, personally experienced, and both given and recieved.

Here’s our top 5 Communication Blunders!

1. Talk constantly about yourself.

Everyone loves to talk about themselves.
Make sure that you let them know your entire life history, all of your personal troubles, and how you know everything there is to know about everything.
Particular favourite of ours is to drone on and on about successful children.
After all, who wouldn’t be interested in both you and them?

2. Talk technical terms to non-technical people.

Forget about sounding understandable, you really must focus on sounding intelligent.
Trust me, your audience will be thoroughly impressed with your depth of knowledge even if they have no idea what you just said.
Overload them with jargon and technicalities if at all possible.

3. Link everything they say back to your own situations.

Take whatever they are communicating to you and make sure they understand how it is the exact same thing that happened to you in the past and relate that experience to them.
Make sure they remember that when it happened to you, it was ten times worse or you did ten times better than they did.

4. Immediately TELL them what they should do.

It is always effective to jump straight to problem solving.
Especially when they have not finished telling you all of the circumstances of the situation.
That way, you can be sure and show them how smart you are by not having to understand the whole situation before you know the solution.
They are bound to be impressed with your psychic capabilities!

5. Multi-task during the conversation.

Nothing is more effective to let someone know how important they are than to interrupt the conversation to multi-task.
Make sure you finish that email –they won’t notice anyway.
Keep your eyes occasionally glancing towards your blackberry and keep it switched on too!
Stop the conversation dead to see who just called or texted you.
Better still pretend to be listening to them whilst trying to get a look at the message on your phone.
That’ll work a treat.

When you master these steps, you will be very successful at keeping your conversations short and to the point.

People will stop walking up to you at networking events .

They will not drop by your desk for support, and they will finally leave you alone.

You’ll certainly have more time for personal reflection on how to communicate better.


Sales Training Tips: Stalking or merely persistance? What to do when your prospects goes to radio silence

Radio Silence…

You’ve seen the movies.. When the attack is just about to commence and the attackers shut down all radio communications.

Great in the movies but not so great when your prospect doesn’t answer your calls or respond to emails or text messages

Clients going to Radio Silence can be a soul-destroying experience.
You leave phone message after phone message with a prospect and for no reason at all, your calls go not only unanswered but unacknowledged.

  • Have they been getting your calls?
  • Did something happen to make them reconsider their decision to buy from you?
  • Are they avoiding you?

You just don’t know.
They’ve fallen off your sales radar and will stay that way until something makes them choose to re-emerge from their guise of invisibility.

In your forecast it’s gone from the Yes box into the “Don’t Know” box.
This can be a real productivity drain.  It can also be a credibility drain in conversations withyour sales manager.
It means you do have to spend your valuable time trying to find out.

We all encounter sales that go radio silent from time to time. So what can you do about it?

(We cover this and other topics on our Sales Training Workshops)

Remember It’s Not about You . Don’t take it personally.
You must always remember that selling isn’t about you—it’s about your clients.
There are many reasons why your prospect or client has gone silent.

  •  Maybe there has been an illness or a family emergency that has kept this person from getting in touch.
  • Perhaps they’re simply away on holiday and forgot to update their voice mail intercept message.
  • We did recently have one of our prospects went Radio Silent only to emerge 3 weeks later with a story of 6-month old daughters going into hospital and suspected nightmare illnesses.
    All of which thankfully turned out well but imagine how we felt having chased her because she told us previously her needs were urgent. ?

If you suspect this as a reason how about … Try calling someone on reception or a colleague of the person you are trying to reach and enquire :
“I’ve been leaving messages for Jack for the past two weeks, and it’s not like him to not return my calls.  Has he been away from the office recently?”

Either way get the facts. This will put you in a much better position to do what’s necessary to correct a sale that has gone off the rails.

If something you did was wrong then Fix What Needs Fixing

Once you’ve ruled out non-business-related factors, then you must try to find out what else may have been keeping someone hiding below your sales radar.
Discover what’s gone wrong and put it right.

What about when you are faced with the stone wall of Email and Voicemail?
With email have you tried putting delivery receipt and read receipt on your emails ?
You may at least see that the email address is correct and if someone is at least opening the email

Here’s our suggestion if you get a voice mailbox every time you call.

Step 1: Vary the times of your calls. Why? Because many people start and end their working days at varying times.
Some people have long commutes and don’t mind discussions whilst driving (assumes you have their mobile number)
Try an 8am call on a mobile , try an 7.30am in the office, try a 6pm call in the office  and a 6.30am on the mobile

Step2. Leave a short, purposeful message .
The message should tell them that you called, do not include your phone number in your message
Make a commitment to call back at a specific date and time. Note that this requires no action by the person you are calling.

Step 3. Leave a short, purposeful follow-up message that fully meets the commitment you made previously.
If you promised to call again on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., then make that call at exactly that time.
Again this is no action requested from your prospect.

Step 4.  Leave one final, purposeful message that tries to get a call back .
Use “Hidden Commands” in your voicemail message. Insert the specific words “Call me Back” or “Return my call ” somewhere in your message.
You should include your personal or work mobile number as the call-back number.
Use words like “Anytime day or night ” to make it clear that you’ve left the door open to further contact.
In my experience very rarely do people call at night! If yours is different be careful with this…

Step 5: Use a text message to their mobile phone.
The tone here is very important… Something like … Hi Jake, Is there any reason that I should know about for why I haven’t heard from you?
I’ve tried 3 emails, left 3 messages. I am only trying to help. I do hope everything is well with you and yours. Would you be kind enough to reply please” Rob

Then stop the chase.

Radio Silence  is a fact of life in sales.
You can’t control the reasons why it happens, however there is a lot you can do to get a client or prospect back on your sales radar.
As always, in the regular course of doing business there is a fine line between persistence and stalking.
However I think different rules apply when you’re dealing with a contact who has unexpectedly gone silent.
Be creative. Try a new approach and ramp up your attempts to contact the client.
You can reach out every two to three days by phone and email, so invest that time wisely.
In doing so, you can overcome the silence.

Do you have any successful techniques for getting over radio silence from prospects ? Let us know.