Characteristics of a Successful Professional: Taking Risks

This is a sales strategy article from guest poster Dave Kahle. Dave offers a variety of resources that can help your business stay competitive in changing times.

Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone

What sets the exceptional professional apart from the average?  Regardless of what the profession, from sales to psychiatry, the exceptional professionals share certain characteristics.  Here’s one: The propensity to take risks.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea.  We’re not talking about skydiving here.  Nor are we talking about sinking your life savings in the new start up dot com that your friend told you about.  I don’t mean taking risks that might endanger your health, safety or long-term security.

Instead, I am talking about taking risks that force you to move out of your comfort zones on the job — risks that will stimulate you to stretch yourself, to become more competent, to gain skills that you may not have, to expand your abilities and, maybe, in so doing, help you become more effective and more efficient.

Here’s an example. When I began my business, my focus was 100% on consulting.  I had never given a seminar in my life.  But I read the books on how to build a consulting practice, and all the experts recommended giving seminars as a way to build your consulting practice.  So I determined to do so.

I developed a program, “How to Find, Interview, Select and Hire a Good Salesperson,” and approached the local business college with a proposal to jointly present it.  They agreed, and a few months later, I presented my first seminar.  It was a huge risk – something I had never done before.  It caused me to stretch myself and to learn a new set of skills.  I could have failed miserably.  But, the seminar was successful.  And that one led to another, and that to yet another. Within a couple of years, I had discovered that speaking and training could be major parts of my practice.  Today, my speaking and training income exceeds my consulting income by multiples.

If I hadn’t taken that first risk, I would never have built a successful speaking practice.  That practice has allowed me to travel all over the country, and to present in many countries around the world.   Not only has my income expanded, but my life has broadened as well.

That’s the kind of risk I’m talking about.  It’s the kind of risk that calls on you to expand yourself.  If you fail, it can be emotionally painful, and perhaps financially troublesome.  However, if you are successful, it can lead you to other, and greater opportunities.

Test me on this.  Talk to someone in your profession who has become exceptionally successful.  Ask him/her about the risks they have taken in their professional lives. You’ll find, I believe, that almost every successful professional has stretched themselves beyond their comfort zones at a number of different times.  It’s one of the characteristics of the highly successful professional.

If you can build a propensity to take these kinds of risks into your mind set, you’ll grow faster and further than if you remain safely inside of your comfort zones.

You take risks in a lot of ways.  As a salesperson, when you call on a different type of customer than that with which you have become comfortable, you take a risk.  For example, when you call on the Chief Financial Officer of a business instead of just the production supervisor, you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and taken a risk.

In every profession, when you choose to implement any new strategy or tactic, or you chose to do something differently, you take a risk.  When you choose to try a new way to contact your clients, make a presentation, or locate your office, you are taking a risk.  When you chose to question and then change some long-entrenched habit, you are taking a risk.  When you expand your efforts in any direction that calls for you to stretch and attempt something new, you are taking a risk.

Some of those risks will turn out well, others will become failures.  Regardless, the simple act of trying something different and new will help you.  You’ll gain confidence in your abilities, and you’ll learn from both your successes as well as your failures. Your life will expand, you’ll grow wiser, and you’ll become more successful.

That is the sure payoff for every risk thoughtfully taken.

Copyright MMVI by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

Three Things CRM Solution Providers Don’t Tell You

(… or you did not know to ask)

By Larry Caretsky, Commence Corporation

Ok, you are looking for a CRM solution for your business. You have your list of requirements and have your questions ready — or do you? Regardless of whether you are a large or small organization, there are a few critical questions that will have substantial impact on the successful implementation, use, and value you will realize from your decision.

I have outlined three questions below that are rarely asked by businesses looking for a CRM solution, and rarely volunteered by the vendors that serve the small business community. How do I know this? Because I sell CRM software.

Data access rights, privacy and security permissions control

1 – Where is my data stored?

The security of your company data may be one of the most important aspects of selecting a CRM solution provider. Despite this, very few people ever ask, “Where is my data stored? Is it backed up every day, and can I get a copy in case of an emergency or if the vendor goes out of business?” Seems like an important question right, yet 90% of the companies that call about Commence CRM never ask. They simply assume that the cloud is the cloud and every CRM provider’s service is pretty much the same – but believe me, they are not.

The proper hosting and management of your data is a significant differentiation between low cost or freemium products and those companies that properly manage and secure your data. You have a right to know where your data is being stored and that it is properly protected. A quality CRM solution provider will provide this information. Ask the question and if you are not satisfied with the response, simply rule that vendor out.

2 – Can I control who can see what?

The objective of CRM software is to provide people with access to vital customer information so that they can effectively do their jobs. However, there are times when you will want to keep some information private. Maybe it is as simple as not allowing sales representatives to see customers or leads outside their territory. Perhaps you want to give access to major accounts to only selected individuals, or you want to limit the functionality people have based on their role in the company. Data access rights is a significant feature that people just do not know to ask about.

Lack of record-level data security or role-based security can have a significant impact on the use of the product within your organization. It is considered a premium feature and it typically is not available in low cost or freemium product offerings. As such, it is critical to ask the question. I receive too many inquiries from companies that selected a low cost solution only to find out later that the product they just implemented does not offer this capability. It is not the vendor’s fault; the buyer never asked the question.

3 – How frequent are your product enhancements?

Being in this industry for many years, I remember the days when customers consistently called to ask what was planned down the road and what new features could they expect in the next product release. Perhaps this was because they were paying an annual software maintenance fee and were used to getting new features each year. The cloud has changed this for some reason. People never ask. They pay their monthly or annual CRM invoices as if they are paying the electric company. The only expectation is that they will have service every day. This does not make sense and I would not want to do business with a company that was not continuing to invest in their product.

Make sure you ask the CRM solution providers you are interested in how many times a year are new or enhanced product features introduced to customers and when was the last update. The answer may be just one and that’s OK as they may offer several new features in the release. The point here is that you have to ask the question and be prepared to move on if you do not like the answer.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky manages the sales organization at Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software for small and mid-size businesses. Commence CRM differentiates itself with a robust set of features that rival enterprise solutions costing much more. This is coupled with a set of best practices and world-class customer service. For more information visit the company’s web site at commence.com or call Commence Sales at 1-877-266-6362.

Sales Q&A #45 – Giving Quotes

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Prospect seems interested but never gets back to you...

Q. Giving quotes. Client (prospect) seems interested but never gets back to you.

A.  I’m assuming that the question here is, “How do I get the prospect to give me an answer when I provide a quote?” This is one of the most common frustrations for sales people.

Before I get into it, let’s examine our expectations. Let’s say that now, out of every 10 quotes that you deliver, three people get back to you, and two buy. You are very frustrated with the other seven, because you can’t seem to get a response.

Realize that without a radical change in the way you do business, you are always going to have some people fall into the category of “not responding” to your follow-ups.

So, if you can change your results to something like five out of the ten people getting back to you, and three actually buying, you will have made a significant impact on your results. You’re still going to be frustrated with the five that don’t respond, but you will have dramatically improved your performance.

In order to do that, let’s consider why a prospect would seem interested, but would not get back to you following your delivery of a quote. Here are a few possibilities.

1.  He was never interested in the first place, and asked for a price as a way of getting rid of you.

2.  He was mildly interested in checking on the price he is currently paying from his preferred vendor. He never had any interest in buying it from you; he was just collecting information.

3.  At the time you were there, he was mildly interested. But now, too many other more important things have occupied his time.

4.  Your price wasn’t very appealing, and you didn’t give him any other reason to buy it from you.

5.  He just doesn’t have the time to fool with you.

6.  Because you are the unknown vendor, doing business with you is just too high a risk.

I could go on and on with these scenarios, but you get the idea. There are a virtually unlimited number of reasons why he isn’t getting back with you – many of which don’t have anything to do with you.

The solution to this problem and the answer to your question is, unfortunately, much larger and more complex than I have space to write the answer.

Everyone wants the simple, easy answer. “Give me the five words that I can say that will get people to return my calls.” Frankly, very little of the sales person’s job can be reduced to simple, easy solutions.

Ultimately, the answer is to do a better job at every aspect of selling:  identifying high-potential suspects, qualifying prospects and opportunities, understanding them better, more effectively presenting your solutions, adequately addressing their concerns, etc. In our Kahle Way® B2B Selling System, it’s about 32 hours of training spread over a year.

But, we don’t have that much time in this article. So, here are a couple of ideas that you may want to implement, in no particular sequence.

1.  Don’t provide a quote unless the prospect agrees to talk with you about it…

… either at the time that you deliver it, or shortly thereafter. So, if he says, for example, “Can you quote me X?” You say, “Sure. I can have the quote to you by the 15th.  When should we get together to discuss it?”

If he won’t make a commitment to talk with you, even if it is just over the phone, then he’s not serious enough about the quote to warrant you investing time in it. Tell him you’ll pass on this one, and will look forward to an opportunity that is important to both of you.

2.  Don’t allow the prospect to make the conversation solely about price.

I’m not sure I’d quote a price in the first or second meeting with a prospect. If I do, then he is judging me and my offering solely on the price. I’d like for him to understand the strengths and advantages of my product/service, and what we can do for him and his company. I’d like to uncover some area of pain, and show him how my product/service/company can make that pain go away.

All of that takes a pretty in-depth interaction with your prospect, and dramatically increases the likelihood that he’ll seriously consider your offer.

When you deliver a price in the first meeting, you are, in effect, saying to the customer that there is no other reason to do business with you other than price. That puts you into the class of “peddlers” whose only contribution to their customers is to advocate for lower prices from their companies.

If you see ten prospects, and leave ten prices, you have interacted with the prospect at the most superficial level, demonstrating to him that you are not important enough for him to seriously consider your offer.

3.  Do a better job of qualifying the prospect.

If he doesn’t have any real burning issue that your offer can address, he’s probably not going to spend any time seriously considering your deal. You must therefore, make sure that the prospect has a significant reason for considering your offer.

That means that you must do a better job of qualifying the prospect and uncovering the depth of the opportunity before you leave a quote. Read my book, Question Your Way to Sales Success, to gain some ideas of how to do this more effectively.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

Best Practice #46 – Plans for 4 aspects of every sales call

By Dave Kahle

“You should have an objective for every sales call.” That’s a bit of sage wisdom that we have all heard, probably multiple times, throughout our sales careers. Unfortunately, I disagree.

I believe you should have four objectives for every sales call.  Every sales call is an opportunity to accomplish these four things:

  1. To connect with the customer more deeply and more intensely than ever before.
  2. To learn about the customer in more depth and detail than previously.
  3. To present something to the customer that he/she will likely think of value.
  4. To gain some agreement on what happens next.

These four goals really reflect the four fundamental competencies of the best sales people.  They are exceptional at connecting with the customer, learning about the customer, presenting to the customer and agreeing with the customer.

As a result, they accomplish far more in a sales call than their less disciplined colleagues.  Each more effective sales call ads to the total, and they become super stars as a result of excellent execution of each sales call, one after the other.

"Excellence expresses itself in great sales calls." - Dave Kahle

Every sales call is an opportunity to practice your craft, to improve upon your skills in these foundational areas. As you focus on achieving the four goals of every sales call, you naturally become more and more adept at them, until you achieve excellence. Excellence expresses itself in great sales calls.

I have two rules for planning a sales call:  1) You must plan to do all four things, and 2) You must plan to do each as well as you can, given the constraints of time and the situation.

Visualize a sales call as being organized like a dart target.  Imagine the dart sphere being divided into four quarters – each representing one of the four fundamental goals of a sales call.  Then, imagine the rings – large on the periphery of the target, but increasingly smaller until they end in a tiny bull’s eye in the middle.

You understand that you have four darts to throw, and each dart that sticks closer to the bull’s eye scores more than those on the outskirts of the target.

So it is with a sales call. You have four goals, and you can achieve each with various degrees of proficiency – i.e. closer to the bull’s eye. For example, you can connect with the customer when you both acknowledge how miserable the weather is outside. On the dart target, that’s the very outer ring of the target, where it doesn’t count very much, if anything.  On the other hand, you can share some deep common bond that you discover. That’s a dart that sticks much closer to the bull’s eye.

You see then, that each sales call is an opportunity to accomplish four objectives, and to accomplish each as deeply as possible.

The best understand the power of a sales call, and plan to wring the greatest value they can out of every sales call.  This is a way to do it.

To learn more about this best practice, consider my one-hour training seminar:  Best Of Dave #1: Target Sales Calls.  If you are subscriber to The Sales Resource Center, consider course C-2, The Kahle Way® B2B Selling System, or Pod #1:  Target Laser Sharp Sales Calls.