The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part Two

Posted by Dave Kahle on January 20, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing.  Here is number two of my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

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iThinking businessman

Mistake Number Two: Lack of thoughtfulness

The typical field sales person has, as a necessary and integral part of his/her personality, an inclination toward action. We like to be busy: driving here and there, talking on our cell phones, putting deals together, solving customer’s problems — all in a continuous flurry of activity. Boy, can we get stuff done!

And this high energy inclination to action is a powerful personality strength, energizing the sales person who wants to achieve success.

But, like every powerful personality trait, this one has a dark side. Our inclination to act often overwhelms our wiser approach to think before we act.

In our hunger for action, we neglect to take a few moments to think about that action. Is this the most effective place to go? Have I thoroughly prepared for this sales call? Do I know what I want to achieve in this call? Is this the person I should be seeing, or is there someone else who is more appropriate? Is it really wise to drive 30 miles to see this account, and then backtrack 45 miles to see another?

Customers these days are demanding sales people who are thoroughly prepared, who have well thought-out agendas, and who have done their research before the sales call. All of this works to the detriment of the “ready-shoot-aim” type of sales person.

On the other hand, those who discipline themselves to a regular routine of dedicated time devoted to planning and preparing will find themselves far more effective than their action-oriented colleagues.

Overcoming this tendency

Unfortunately, it almost always takes hard work and discipline to overcome a bad habit that is easy for us to create. That is true of this tendency. The habit of thoughtless action is easy to create, because our basic personalities so easily gravitate toward action.

To change it, we need to use discipline to create the habit of thoughtfulness. I’d suggest that you build dedicated planning time into your schedule. During this time, you plan and prepare (in other words, you think about it before you do it). Here’s the schedule of thinking time that I recommend:

  • an annual planning retreat of one to three days
  • a monthly planning time in which you create a specific plan for that month
  • a weekly time to plan and prepare for the coming week
  • a daily planning time at the end of every day to prepare for the next
  • a two-minute thought-time before every sales call to focus and ground yourself in the objectives and strategies for that call.

All of this sounds like a lot, and it is. My rule for years has been to spend 20% of my time planning and preparing (thinking about) the other 80% of my time. The discipline of thinking about it before you do it will make you much more effective in the 80% that is dedicated to actually doing it.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

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The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part One

Posted by Dave Kahle on January 12, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my top five. Here’s number one, not necessarily in order of priority. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of it.

Mistake Number One: Over concern with strategy instead of tactics

Gather a group of sales people together around a coffee maker and listen to the conversation. After the obligatory complaints about all types of things, the conversation inevitably drifts to questions of strategy. How do I accomplish this in that account? How do I get this account to this?

In my seminars, I often hold a “clinic” where sales people write down any sales-related question and submit it to the group for discussion. These questions are almost always related to strategic issues. In one form or another, they ask the same question: How do I achieve this effect in this account?

While this thoughtfulness is encouraging, it reveals an erroneous mindset. The belief behind these questions is this: “If I can only determine the right sequence of actions of my part, I’ll be able to sell this account, or achieve this goal.”

This, unfortunately, is rarely the case. These sales people, based on this erroneous belief, are looking for a solution in the wrong place. Almost always, the answer to the question is not a more clever strategy, but better execution of the basic tactics.

It is like the football team whose players don’t tackle well, miss their blocks, throw erratic passes, and fumble frequently. The solution is not a better game plan. The solution is better execution of the basic tactics. Learn to do the basics effectively, and the strategy will generally take care of itself.

The real problem with this over-concern for strategy is that it reduces the sales person’s energy, substituting the pursuit of a better strategy for the real solution – better execution of the basics.

When I’m asked these “strategy” questions, I find myself asking the sales person to verify the fundamentals. Have you identified the key decision makers and influencers in the account? Have you created trusting personal relationships with each of them? Have you understood the customer’s situation at a deep level? Have you presented your solution in a way that gives them reason to do business with you? Have you effectively matched your proposal to the intricacies of the customer’s needs?

This line of inquiry almost always reveals a flaw in tactical execution. It’s not the strategy that is the problem, it’s the tactics. Focus on doing the basics first, and the need for a clever strategy diminishes.

Overcoming this tendency

Clearly the solution is to focus on improving the basics. What skills are the “blocking and tackling” of sales? Here’s a short list:

  • gaining access to the right people
  • making a positive first impression
  • creating rapport and building positive business relationships
  • asking questions and understanding the customer
  • making an articulate presentation
  • gaining commitment for action
  • following up to assure satisfaction.

Now that you have the list, how do you improve these skills? The same way a football or basketball player would improve their skills. You study the techniques, and then you practice them. That means that you search for good models of each of these skills. It could be books, seminars, audio program, Internet classes, or the teaching of a competent manager or sales trainer. Regardless, you regularly expose yourself to the best practices of those who have a record of success. You gain ideas from them, and then you practice.

The same way a football or basketball player would improve their skills, study the techniques, and then practice them.

I have been a Detroit Pistons fan for years. In their Bad Boy days, they were led by All Star Isaiah Thomas. One year, the Detroit News reported that Isaiah had a new home built. In it, he had a basketball court, so that he could practice free throws in his spare time. Imagine that. An All Star practices the most basic basketball skill in his free time. That dedication to excellence in the basics is exactly the same thing to which I’m referring. Focus on the basics, practice forever.

455 lessons for sales people and sales managers, available 24/7 for one low monthly fee. The ultimate resource to improve your sales effectiveness. Click here to learn more.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

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Remarkable things happen when you refuse to discount

Posted by Dave Kahle on December 23, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Question and Answer for Sales People

Businessman holding paper with the word No

By Dave Kahle

Q. Customers ask every year at “budget” time for us (as their main distributor) to give them a better discount. Will this ever stop?

A. No.

Q. How can we continue to grow when we keep giving away margin?

A. Let’s think about this one together.

If your margins are greater than the average in your industry, and you are a well managed company, you could probably give away some of that margin to your customers without any severe repercussions to the company.

If that’s not the case, then the answer is obvious. You can’t subsidize your customer’s business – at least not many of them. You must make a profit, and you must make a pretty significant profit if you want to fund your growth out of the cash flow from your operations.

I suspect, in this case, that you are giving away margin to keep the business. If your margins are excessive, you can probably do this for a while. But there is a point at which any further degradation of the margin means that you are servicing this account unprofitably. There may be strategic reasons to do so, but from a purely economic point of view, you can’t do that very often or for very long. Either one of those choices will result in the early demise of your company.

So the answer to your question is, “You won’t for very long.” But that’s not the real issue.

The real issue is “Why are you giving away margin?”

The answer says more about you than it does the customer. Customers will continually ask for lower prices, because that’s their job. But just because they ask doesn’t mean that you have to give in. While there may be times and places when reducing your margin may be a wise thing to do, generally speaking, it’s not recommended. Here’s why:

1. When you discount your margins, you train the customer to continually ask for bigger discounts. Your customer thinks, “If it worked this time, why won’t it work again?”

2. When you discount your margins, you train the customer that your prices are negotiable, and that your stated price is not your real price. So, again, you train the customer to continually ask for discounts.

3. When you discount your margins, you send a message that your company really does not add any value to the equation, and you sink to the level of the low-price competitors.

On the other hand, when you refuse to discount, you:

1. Send the message that your price is fair for the value that the customer receives.

2. Send the message that your prices are not negotiable.

3. Send the message that there is integrity in your pricing and in your business.

When it comes down to it, the real reason that you are giving away margin is that you are afraid to lose the business to a lower priced competitor if you don’t. That’s a fear that you must face if you are going to be successful in the long term. Until you get over that fear, you’ll forever be at the mercy of the discount-demanding customers.

There are worse things than losing a piece of business to a low priced competitor.

Refuse to discount, and walk away from the business if you have to. In the long run, you’ll be more confident, you’ll have a greater personal presence, and you’ll reduce the incessant clamoring for discounts. If the customer moves to someone else, they may come back to you if the competitor messes up. And, it’ll free your time to invest in customers who are not so price conscious.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at 800-331-1287, or

Photo Credit: pakorn/

Be ready to provide information to your customers

Posted by Dave Kahle on December 15, 2014 under CRM Software Resources, Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Best Practice # 42: Has a systematic approach to collecting, processing, storing and accessing information about their products and services.

Here are the documents you requested by stockimages at

By Dave Kahle

Sometimes I am almost embarrassed to have to actually spend time describing some of these best practices. There are some that seem so blatantly obvious, so basic, that there can’t possibly be salespeople who don’t do them.

Alas, no matter how basic and fundamental a best practice may sound, there are good numbers of salespeople who just don’t implement that practice well. They may agree on the concept, and give lip service to the idea, but they just don’t find themselves practicing that procedure with any discipline.

That’s why the best practices are called best practices. You have to do them. It’s one thing to acknowledge their value and expediency; it’s quite another to routinely execute them with excellence.

This one falls into that category. Could there possibly be a salesperson who doesn’t have all the literature for every product or service he sells — the specifications, the efficacy studies, the price and packaging – organized so he can easily find it and retrieve it?

More than you would think.

As a result, they look unprepared and unorganized in front of the customer, waste time looking for things they should have, and miss opportunities due to a lack of readily available information.

The best salespeople understand the need to be organized, and specifically to have their product and service information and literature readily available. They understand that this means both hard copy and electronic files, organized in some logical and coherent fashion, kept up to date, and readily assessable whenever they need it. That typically takes the form of a file box in their car for the hard copy literature, and a set of files on their laptop for the electronic.

That way, they can easily and quickly produce the information that their customers require. They save the customer time, appear professional and organized, and turn opportunities into dollars.

That’s why they are the best, and this is a practice of the best.

Photo: stockimages/

First Steps to Effective Sales Planning

Posted by Dave Kahle on December 9, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Adapted from Take Your Performance Up a Notch, Chapter 3, by Dave Kahle.

Most sales people love to be active – out in their territories, seeing people, solving problems, putting deals together. This activity orientation is one of the necessary characteristics of a sales personality. A day sitting behind a desk is their idea of purgatory.

Unfortunately, this activity orientation is both a strength and a weakness. Much of a sales person’s ability to produce results finds its genesis in the energy generated by this activity orientation.

But it can be a major obstacle. Far too often, sales people are guilty of going about their jobs directed by the credo of “Ready, shoot…aim.” The luxury of this kind of unfocused activity is a casualty of the Information Age. In order to be effective, sales people must be focused and thoughtful about everything they do. Activity without forethought and planning is a needless waste of time and energy.

And the most important part of the job to think about is the time they spend in front of their prospects and customers. Of all the different parts of their job, there is nothing more important to think about – nothing more important to plan – than that one thing.

For most sales people, if they were to make a list of everything they do in the course of a day, and then considered each of the items on the list, they’d likely discover that almost everything they do can be done cheaper or better by someone else within their company. Someone else can call for appointments cheaper or better than the sales person. Someone else can more easily check on back orders. Someone else can fill out a price quote, write a letter, or deliver a sample, cheaper or better than most sales people. In fact, it’s likely that the only thing a sales person can do that no one else in the company can do cheaper or better is interact with the customers. It’s the face-to-face interactions with customers that define the value they typically bring to the company. If it weren’t for that, your company would have little use for sales people.

So, the face-to-face interaction with the customer is the core value sales people bring to the company. Yet, most studies indicate that the average outside sales person only spends about 25 – 30 percent of his/her work week actually face-to-face with the customer.

In the light of that, doesn’t it make sense to spend some time planning and preparing to make that 25 – 30 percent of the week the highest quality you can possibly make it? Of course it does.

Planning Principles

Mastery of this practice is built upon several powerful principles. Here’s the first:  Good decisions require good information.

CRM is a dynamic system that is constantly processing, storing and using new information.

It’s the Information Age, remember. And that means, if you’re going to be an effective professional sales person, you must collect, store, and use good information. You can’t make effective plans if the information on which you build those plans is faulty or sketchy.

If you were going to build a home, for example, you’d want to know about the nature of the ground on which the home was to be built. You’d need to have a good idea about what kind of weather conditions the home would be enduring, what the building codes were, what materials were available and what they cost, and what kind of skilled workmen were required. The list could go on and on. The point is that you wouldn’t be able to build a home very effectively if you didn’t have good information on which to base those plans.

The same principles apply to building a home as well as delivering effective sales performance. In both cases, good planning requires good information. It may be that your company provides you all the information you need. But, it’s more likely they don’t. If you’re going to work with good information, you must be the one who collects that information. That means that you must create systems to collect, store and use the information that will be most helpful to you. Since our world is constantly producing new information, the system you create isn’t something you do once and forget. Rather, it must be a dynamic system that is constantly processing, storing and using new information.

The Information-Collecting Process

Creating and maintaining your system is a matter of following several specific steps. Here’s the process:

1. Create a list of the categories of information you’d like to have.

2. Working with one category at a time, brainstorm a list of all the pieces of information you’d like to have within that category.

3. Develop a system and some tools to help you collect that information.

4. Store it efficiently.

5. Use it regularly.

Step One. Start by listing the kinds of information you think will be most useful to you.

Think about your job and determine what kinds of information you’d like to have to help you deal effectively with your customers. Here’s a partial list that would fit most sales people:

  • Information about your customers and prospects.
  • Information about your competitors.
  • Information about the products, programs and services you sell.

You may have a number of other categories, but this is a basic list with which you can begin.

Step Two. Once you’ve categorized the kind of information you’d like, you can then think about what information would be ideal to have in each category.

Start at the top and work down. Look at customers and prospects first. What, ideally, would you like to know about them? Some typical pieces of information would include information about the account’s total volume of the kind of products you sell, the dates of contracts that are coming up, the people from whom they are currently buying, and so forth. All of that seems pretty basic. However, most sales people have no systematic way of collecting and storing that information. So, while you may occasionally ask a certain customer for parts of it, you probably aren’t asking every customer for all the information. And, you’re probably not collecting it, storing it, and referring to it in a systematic, disciplined way.

Do you think your competitors know exactly how much potential is in each of their accounts? Do you think they know other pieces of useful information, for example, how many pieces of production equipment each customer has, and the manufacturer and year of purchase of each? Probably not. If you collect good quantitative marketing information, you’ll be better equipped to make strategic sales decisions and create effective plans. For example, you’ll know exactly who to talk to when the new piece of equipment from ABC manufacturer is finally introduced. And, you’ll know who is really ripe for some new cost-saving product that’s coming, or the new program your company is putting together.

You may currently be doing a so-so job of collecting information. It’s like golf. Anyone can hit a golf ball. But few can do it well. Anyone can get some information. Few sales people do it well.

Step Three. Develop a system and some tools.

The single most effective tool is an account profile form. It’s an incredibly effective tool that generates and organizes some of the most powerful processes.

Read about the power and process of an account profile form in the expanded version of this article here.

Step Four. Store it efficiently.

You may have done a great job of collecting information, but if you’ve stored it on old matchbook covers, coffee-stained post-its, and the backs of old business cards somewhere in the backseat of your car, it’s probably not going to do you much good.

If you’re computerized, then your computer can be the super tool that allows you to efficiently store the information. If not, you’re going to need to create a set of files (yes, manila folders!) in which to store your information.

Step Five. Use it regularly.

Before every sales call, review the information you have stored. That review will help you make good decisions about each aspect of the sales call. Likewise, review the information as you create your annual goals and sales plans, when you create account strategies, and when you organize and plan your territories.

As you can tell, an account profile form is a master tool that holds all of this together.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at 800-331-1287, or

Photo credit: stuart miles/

How to handle an account in the hands of a competitor

Posted by Dave Kahle on November 25, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Question and Answer for Sales People

By Dave Kahle

Q. I have been receiving your monthly e mail and have read several of your books. I work as an account manager for a large industrial supplier. I love your strategies and ideas but I haven’t found a specific way to overcome my most recent obstacle. I have been moved around from several successful territories, and now find myself trying to sell to companies that are lead by close friends of my main competitor. This competitor is a former employee of our company and is bound and bent to destroy us. How can I get between him and these contacts that are, in some cases, close friends with him for 20+ years? You guys are in my opinion THE best in the business! You must have an answer to this.

A. You certainly have a difficult challenge, but not one that is insurmountable.

The fact that your competitor is bent on destroying you probably works in your favor. It means that he is likely to make decisions based on emotions, instead of based on good business principles. Sooner or later this will catch up with him, and the customers will recognize his motivation. Stay above all of that.

Let me start first with what NOT to do.

1. Don’t bad mouth your competitor, don’t criticize him or even talk about him. The focus of your communication should be on the customer’s issues and your company’s ability to help them. Your attitude should be, particularly in this situation, that the competition is irrelevant. Now, we both know that not to be the case. However, the point is that you don’t want to initiate a conversation with the customer about your competitor.

2. Don’t threaten the existing relationships by trying to take business away from the competitor. At this point, you will lose all of those attempts to gain business at the competitor’s expense. You’ll make everyone defensive and uncomfortable. Remember, he’s had long-standing relationships in these accounts, and is far stronger than you are.

Having established that, what should you do?

Stone sculptor chipping away

1. Start with a long-term perspective. You are not going to change anything overnight. So, you must view this challenge as something that may take years to turn around.

2. Remember that everything changes, and things change more rapidly today than ever before. Be particularly on the lookout for changes in personnel. If a new department manager or purchasing agent is hired, it is possible that person does not have an existing relationship with your competitor. Give those people priority, and try to establish positive relationships with those new people.

3. Don’t compete. What I mean by that is to find a product that is purchased in small volumes and is beneath everybody’s radar screen. It’s so inconspicuous that no one much cares from who they buy it. Actually, the more inconspicuous the product is, the better off you are. Pick off that product in any way that you can. Use it to become a legitimate vendor in that account.

That now gives you a story to tell to others in the account, a legitimate status in that account, and a history of transactions. Do it again. Find another small and inconspicuous product to pick off. Build a small base of business by searching out and becoming the supplier for those products in which no other vendor is too interested. As you build a base business, use the relationships developed in that process to leverage and expand your relationships. At some point, you’ll be thought of as a substantial vendor.

At that point, given your history in this account, and the change in personnel that is inevitable, you’ll be in a position to compete face-to-face for the business in a much more advantaged position than you have now.

 This article is available in an expanded version. Click here to read it.

This will get you started. If you’d like to dig into this issue some more, here are some additional resources:

* An article: The Impenetrable Account at

* Pod-11, “Managing the Impenetrable Account” in the Sales Resource Center.

Good luck.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at 800-331-1287, or

Photo credit: dan/

Ways to influence the customer to want to see you again

Posted by Dave Kahle on November 20, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Sales Best Practice #40: Has several ways of influencing the customer to want to see you again.

By Dave Kahle

Rarely is a business2business sales call a one-call close. Our products are too varied and sophisticated, and the customer’s buying processes are too complex for that.

If we see a prospect for the first time, and aren’t able to identify an opportunity or start a project in that first call, we don’t want that one sales call to be the only time we see that prospect. We want to see him again.

For example, let’s say you sell industrial supplies. You have 25,000 items that this prospect could potentially buy from you. Just because you don’t discover a likely project on your first visit doesn’t mean that you won’t on the next. Or, you may have had a customer call you with a specific need. You presented your solution, and the customer bought. In his eyes, he may think that the need has been filled, the project is finished, and he has no need to see you again. You, on the other hand, recognize that there are an additional 24,999 things he could buy from you.

In either case, your on-going success is dependent upon you uncovering additional opportunities within your accounts. And that means that your customer must be willing to see you again. And again. And again.

The best salespeople understand this nuance, and have developed specific strategies and tactics to influence the customer to be open to seeing them again. They take a long-term approach to sales, and understand that every call represents a new beginning in a developing relationship. Just like a romantic relationship, if the other party doesn’t want to see you again, the relationship is not going to progress.

Win-Win Blackboard means Outcome Benefiting Both Sides by Stuart Miles at

Why would they want to see you again? They must receive something they value for the investment of time that they spend with you. In other words, they have to get something that warrants their investment of time. Probably the most powerful “benefits” have to do with helping the customer do his/her job more effectively. For example, if your customer is a purchasing agent, he/she sees time with you as likely to provide him a source he doesn’t have, or some information he can use. A small business owner, on the other hand, views his business as his job, and looks for things that can help his business.

There are personal “benefits” as well. You make him feel good because you express sincere interest in him and listen intently. Or he enjoys talking with you because you have things in common.

Regardless, the best salespeople understand this sophisticated issue, and develop ways and means to continually ensure that their customers want to see them again. They think hard about it, collect useful information for their customers, and plan specifically to influence people to want to see them again.

That’s why it is a practice of the best.

Image Credit: Stuart Miles/

The Question is the Key

Posted by Dave Kahle on November 12, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Focus, focus, focus. That is the phrase that I find myself repeating constantly in every sales seminar that I present. I believe focus is the greatest challenge for sales people today, and the greatest single solution to their challenges. There are so many demands on our time, so many tasks calling for our attention, and so many opportunities available to us that we can easily become scattered and dissipated.

And in my 30 plus years of experience in the sales profession, I have identified several places where focus will gain you the greatest results. At the top of the list is focusing on the skill of asking better sales questions.

If there is only one practice within the scope of the professional sales person upon which you can focus, let it be to gain mastery in asking better questions.

Asking a good question is your single most powerful sales tool.

Of all the things that you can do and say when you are talking with a customer, there is none that even comes close to the power of asking a good question. It stands alone, apart from every other tactic, as your single most powerful sales tool. Nothing even approaches it.

Of all the ways that you can think about your job, nothing comes close to formulating powerful questions to ask yourself, and then answering them in writing. The question you ask yourself is your single most powerful thinking tool.

That power springs from a simple principle: When you ask a question, they think of the answer. I know that sounds incredibly basic, but the most powerful truths are often very basic. If you consider this, you’ll come to the conclusion that the language in your question influences, shapes and energizes the thinking of the person to whom the question is asked.

In the case of asking the customer, the question influences, shapes, and energizes the thinking of your customer. Not only that, but the language in the questions you ask yourself direct and focus your own thinking.

Where does the decision to buy your product or service ultimately take place? Isn’t it in the mind of the customer? And what one tool allows you to shape what takes place in that mind? A good question.

Let me prove it to you. Answer this question. Did you enjoy what you had for breakfast this morning?

Now consider what you did when you read that question. Probably, in a split second spent thinking, you conjured up a picture of you eating breakfast this morning. You reviewed that by considering the picture, and then made a judgment about it: You either did or did not enjoy it.

In other words, my question caused you to think a certain way, about a certain subject. And every person who reads this book will do exactly the same thing. My question will direct and influence the thinking process of thousands of people in some small way.

Our natural reaction, when we are asked a question, is to think of the answer. While it is possible to be asked a question and to not think of the answer, it generally takes some planning and an act of willpower to do so. Even then, our conditioning often takes over and supplants our intentions.

For example, decide, right now, not to think of the answer to this question. I’m going to ask you a question, but I want you to not think of the answer. Ready? How old are you?

Don’t think of the answer!

If you are like most people, by this point the answer has crept into your mind and oozed out into your consciousness.

That’s the ultimate power of a question. When someone asks a question, you think of the answer. These two questions that I asked above were both relatively trivial. Imagine, however, the power of a more significant question, or better yet, a series of significant questions, to direct and influence the thinking of your customers. Are you beginning to gain a sense of the tremendous power of a question?

Here’s an example of how this operates in a practical selling situation: You’ve just made a proposal or a presentation of your solution. You ask the customer, “What do you not like about my product?” That’s a terrible question. What is the customer going to think about as a result of your question? All the faults he can find with your product.

On the other hand, you could influence the customer to think much more positively about your product by asking this question: “In what ways do you see yourself (or your company) benefiting from this product?”

I’d much prefer to have the customer think about the answer to the second question, rather than the first question. In this scenario, it was your question that influenced the direction of the customer’s thinking. That’s the ultimate power of a good sales question.

The power of a question to direct thinking applies just as powerfully to you. When you ask yourself questions, you direct, influence and energize your own thinking.

My work with questions has led me to conclude that the question is your most powerful thinking device, shaping and prompting excellent analysis, great prioritizing, powerful creativity, and excellent plans.

Your ability to think well depends on the language in the questions that you ask yourself.

Here’s an example. At one time, I sold for a distributor of hospital supplies. I was instructed by my manager to make sure that I always had something to present to every customer on whom I called. I thought he probably knew what he was doing, and I followed his direction. Every time that I mentioned a product line that I carried, or handed over a piece of literature, or provided a sample, or demonstrated a product, I’d call that a “sales presentation.” Thus, I was prepared to make a sales presentation on every sales call. At some point along the way, I thought that if I could increase the quantity of sales presentation that I made, I could probably correspondently increase the number of opportunities that I uncovered, and thus, eventually, the volume of my sales. So, I asked myself this question: “How can I double the quantity of sales presentations I make in my territory?”

The answer to the question was obvious: Take two things with me on every sales call. While the answer was obvious, it took me asking the right question to uncover that answer and the resulting strategy. I determined to do just that, and saw my sales increase dramatically.

Some time later, I asked myself a similar question: “How can I increase the quantity of sales presentations I make in my territory?” Again, the answer was obvious: Take more than two!

Once again, the answer was obvious. It was laying there for everyone to see. But it took the right question to uncover it. It wasn’t until I asked the right question that I discovered the resulting strategy.

So, again, I implemented that strategy and saw my sales increase again.

Some time later, I asked myself a different question: “How can I cause the quantity of sales presentations in my territory to be increased?”

Notice the difference in the language of the question. Now, it wasn’t just about me. Since I asked the question in a different way, it led me to a different answer, and a different strategy.

The answer to the most recent question? I could influence some of the manufacturer’s representatives who sold the lines that I carried to work on my behalf in my territory. If one of them made a product presentation in my territory, it would have the same impact as if I had made it myself. So, I determined to identify and then work with a core group of manufacturer’s reps, with whom my company had exclusive relationships, and who I determined to be competent, honest and reliable sales reps.

The eventual outcome of this strategy? I did five times the volume of the average rep in that field.

Notice the sequence of events. Let’s start at the end. I did huge volumes of business – five times the amount of the ordinary sales rep. One of the reasons I did that kind of volume was that I created more opportunities than any one else. One of the reasons I generated more opportunities was my routine of working closely with a core group of manufacturer’s reps, and thoroughly preparing to show several items to every prospect or customer in every sales call. The reason I implemented those strategies was that I arrived at the obvious answer to some questions I asked myself.

What was the stimulus that created this whole sequence of events? The questions I asked myself.

If there is only one practice within the scope of the professional sales person upon which you can focus, let it be to gain mastery in asking better questions.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine.

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What is a sales person’s role in the collection process?

Posted by Commence on October 27, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment


Q. We do not want to turn sales people into collection agents, but there certainly is a role that sales people can play in the process. Do you have any thoughts?

A. Yes, I do. Like you, I don’t want to turn sales people into collection agents. Let’s consider this piece by piece.

First, I believe the credit department has the responsibility to ascertain an account’s credit-worthiness and to provide specific and timely direction to the sales people. If an account’s credit line is reduced, for example, that decision needs to be clearly communicated to the sales person in a timely fashion so that the sales person doesn’t spend inappropriate time trying to sell to that account. Nobody wants sales people spending time selling to an account when the company won’t accept an order from that account.

Sales people, then, should follow the credit department’s lead in determining to whom to sell. As always, a little bit of prevention is worth a whole lot of time and effort trying to fix a bad situation.

Second, what about those situations where you have sold and invoiced an account, and now it is slow in paying? Does the sales person have a role? I think so.

Let’s consider some of the economics in a scenario where the customer pays 60 days late. Is there a cost to the company for an account paying late? Of course. Consider all the costs involved: Bank carrying charges on the balance, the cost of additional invoices and statements, the cost of the time of the accounts receivable personnel, and the opportunity costs lost due to additional inventory not being acquired because the money is tied up. It would not be unusual for the cost of a 60 day late payment to approximate 3 – 4 percent of the total sale.

Now before you make light of that, consider that there are many industries whose bottom line, in the best of days, hovers around three percent of sales. In other words, it’s entirely possible that a 60 day late payment wipes out all the net profit from that transaction.

Now let’s also say that in this scenario, the sales person receives a five percent commission on the total sales price.

Should there be some impact on the sales person of this account paying late? Honestly, I think so. I think the sales person’s commission should be adjusted to account for the reduction in gross/net profit.

Now, I am aware of the arguments against that. The biggest one is this: “The sales person should sell, not collect.” Generally I agree with that statement. But the purpose of selling is to bring revenue into the company. If the revenue is decreased for whatever reason, the sales person’s reward should be directly impacted. The sale really is not completed until the revenue has been received.

Hand with dollar by jannoon028 at

To do anything other is to put the sales person and the company at cross purposes. The sales person gets paid for selling anything to anyone, regardless of the payment history. The company gets paid for selling profitably. That’s a conflict of interest. I always favor aligning the interests of everyone in the company.

Let’s also keep in mind that the sales person often has a better view of what is going on in that account than anyone else. And the sales person often has relationships with the account that help facilitate the process of reviewing and correcting errant invoices.

My opinion? Sales people’s commissions should reflect the length of time it takes to collect the invoice. They should look over their accounts receivable on a regular (monthly) basis. When they see an account going too long past due, they should have a vested interest in intervening. That doesn’t make them collection agents, but it does align their interests with the company’s interests. They can act, by exception, in those cases where their intervention can make a difference. One or two calls a month can clean up and prevent a lot of lost revenue. And revenue is the ultimate measurement of both the company’s and the sales person’s performance.

So, should sales people be totally responsible for collecting past due receivables? No. But should sales people have a vested interest in looking at the exceptions and intervening to help keep an account within terms? Yes.

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Sales Best Practice #38 – Maintains a good filing system

Posted by Dave Kahle on October 20, 2014 under Sales Training | Read the First Comment

Sales Best Practice #38: Maintains a good filing system, with all the useful information readily available.

By Dave Kahle

“I’m just not a very organized person.”

That from one of my recent seminar participants.

“You’ll never be as successful as you could be until you overcome that,” I said in response.

If you are not organized, fix it.

Highly successful salespeople, the top guns, are highly organized. They maintain a good filing system that allows them to collect, store and use useful information.

The average field salesperson spends only about 25 – 30 percent of the workweek actually talking to customers. Imagine what would happen if we could dramatically increase that number. One of the things we waste time doing is fishing for information. A good filing system dramatically reduces that wasted time, and provides us with good information that helps us improve the quality of our sales calls.

This is the information age. Information is an asset to a company, and particularly to a salesperson. Collect good information about your customers, and you are able to more closely connect with them, more sharply focus your selling time, and more finely hone your proposals. Maintain a system that allows you to access product information and you’ll rarely keep customers waiting, you’ll rarely look unprofessional, and you’ll be able to quickly access things you need to know.

In today’s world, there is no excuse for not having a good filing system and using it to collect and store useful information.

At this writing (2009) you probably need to have duplicate systems, one hard copy and one electronic. As your company moves towards a paperless system, you’ll eventually do away with the hard copy system.

The system should consist of hard copy and electronic files for each of your A & B customers and prospects, in which you maintain account profiles, logs of everything you talked about, copies of old quotes, etc.

The system should also provide you, either/or electronically or hard copy, access to all the important sales and marketing literature for all the products and services you sell.

You should have at your fingertips a complete listing of each of your internal people, with phone numbers, extensions, and a description of what each does as it relates to your job.

You should have files for “learning” or personal development. These files (electronic and/or hardcopy) contain the things that you need to read about your industry including industry trends and reports, as well as the new products or services with which you need to become conversant.

All of this should be well organized, maintained, and readily available. Refer to the appropriate files before every sales call.

You can see what an advantage this provides to the serious professional salesperson. That’s why this is a best practice of the best. If you want to be one of the best, do what the best do.

For more resources on this best practice:

a. Chapters three, four and five of How to Excel at Distributor Sales

b. Chapter three of Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch

c. Chapter eight of 10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople

d. The one hour “Best of Dave Kahle” telephone seminar: Get Organized! Managing Information Before it Manages You