The Missing Link to Ongoing Sustainable Sales Growth

Statistically, across industries, employers spend approximately 90% of their efforts training their sales team on product knowledge. The remaining 10% is spent training their sales force how to develop connection, relationship and trust with customers. 

Obviously, both are very important but in and of themselves, or even collectively, these disciplines are not enough to achieve the ultimate goal of any sales organization - ongoing, sustainable sales growth.

So what's the missing link? What does it take to get sales people off of the sales rollercoaster, and on to a consistent growth pattern that continues?

While more emphasis on sales training (i.e., connection, relationship and trust) would definitely improve results short term, the only true long-term solution is in developing and increasing the sales professionals ability to influence customers and outcomes.

To improve your own ability, or the ability of your sales team to influence customers and customer outcomes, register below for our complimentary video training series on Sales Influence.

Complete the form below to request the complimentary training. 

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How to Design an Influential Presentation in a Pinch

Whether your boss asks you to deliver a fifteen minute summary of your findings to the Board of Directors on just five minutes from now, or you're preparing to deliver the opening keynote at an annual conference and have 3 months to prepare, this video is for you!

This simple formula will have you look like a hero in one-on-one presentations as well as large venue events.

If you'd like a deeper dive into this structure, watch this video.

Pleas like, share, and leave a comment (or question) below if this served you.

How to Deliver a Presentation that Influences Buyers to Take Action

In this video,  I break down a step-by-step process for delivering a presentation that compels customers and prospects to take action. So, whether you are presenting one-on-one, face-to-face, in a boardroom, or in a room full of people, you deliver a message that influences your audience to do, think, feel or believe whatever you you intend with your message.

How to Sell Without Spending Money

For those of you who sell in an industry where expense accounts and war chests are the norm, and you’ve been led to believe the only way to gain access and/or actually have a sales conversation with your customer/prospect, this will be a breath of fresh air for you.

The reality of the situation is you don’t need money to gain access or have a meaningful sales conversation with your prospects/customer, at least not as much as you and your competitors are currently accustomed to spending.

I can already hear folks in the industrial sales, oilfield service and pharmaceutical sales profession screaming “bullshit” at me for even suggesting such blasphemy.

Just hang in here with me and consider the following . . .

When I started in the pharmaceutical industry, I did so at a time when doctors and pharmaceutical reps were both accustomed to lavish gifts, trips, dinners, lunches, etc. However, I entered the industry the exact month that all came to a screeching halt.

That month, something called "PhRMA code" was past and it eliminated the gift giving, golf games, fishing trips, the infamous "dine-n-dash" and lavish dinners for physicians and their spouses. The only perk left was office lunches and dinner programs lead by a peer speaker. However, I still faced a significant challenge.

The company I just signed on to sell for was a small “entrepreneurial” company. Translation: There would be absolutely no budget for said office lunches and/or dinner programs. That’s right, I was going to be required to actually sell. Sell my way in, sell the doctor on giving me some time, sell the doctor on the fact that I had no budget, and sell the doctor to prescribe a medication he’d never heard of, that was not even on the pharmacy shelf, and that I had no scientific proof that my drug was legit, much less safe.

To put the icing on the cake, I was selling repackaged Benadryl (for the most part) and all I had to work with was my smiling face, a sketchy looking sample, and a two sided marketing piece that was barely up to professional standards.

The result? Well, thanks to the very best sales training and leadership support I’ve ever received (before and sense), and a relentless work ethic fueled by the fear of failure, I took a territory that had never performed well, and transformed it into a top 6 territory that earned the respect of the CEO, upper management, and my colleagues.

I don’t share this to impress you, but to impress upon you that if I can sell repackaged Benadryl to a bunch of highly education, science-minded physicians, without any substantial evidence to support my claims, and without a penny to throw at my efforts, you can do extraordinary things with little to no budget, and the incredible products/services you represent. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too . . .

[By the way, that product I sold and the company I worked for were both first class all the way.  Like I said, they were entrepreneurial, and they chose to approach the market in a very strategic and intentional way. I owe a great deal of my professional and entrepreneurial success to the training and development I received from them. For that I am eternally grateful.]

1.     Invest wisely. If you have any money to spend, spend it on food. It took a while for one of my managers convince me of this, but since she did, I've seen it time and again first hand: faster and stronger bonds are formed when people break bread together.  If you don’t have a budget for meals, spend any time you get with your customer focused on building the relationship. When people feel like they know you as a human being and they connect with you on an emotional level subconsciously, all of a sudden the standard access and time rules don’t apply to you.

2.     Set expectations up front. Once you have broken bread together, or you have invested the initial time together building the relationship, let them know what you can and can not do with regards to your budget. Some will respectfully point you in another direction, but the ones you’ll ultimately be able to move the needle with will respect your limitations.

Be up front, be honest, and don’t be afraid to set those expectations. After all, it is sales professionals who have conditioned the customers to expect what they currently expect. There’s no reason you cannot recondition your customer.

3.     Prioritize your territory. Once you’ve had the conversation and set the expectations with all of your prospects and customers, you’ll then have a pretty good idea who you can influence, who you can’t, and who may take the greatest investment of time. Make a list of all your customers/prospects, and label them A, B and C. Discard any whom you have learned that will be no access due to your lack of funds.

4.     Increase your activity. Decide where you can invest more of your time now that you’ve reprioritized and eliminated. Who do you need to see once a week, bi-weekly, once a month, etc. Invest your time in the following manner: 70% on A targets, 20% on B targets and 10% on your C targets.

5.     Ask for the business. Every single time you’re in front of your customer, above all things, add value. But once you have added value, always ask for the business. The business might not be the sale, per se, but there’s always a next step. Ask for that. Every single time!

Consistently apply these five things to your current sales process and you'll be amazed at the growth in your business in the next 3-6 months.

Why most people do not negotiate effectively

For the past six and a half years, I've taught business professionals, executives and employees of all ranks, how to negotiate a win-win outcome.

Through the many experiences I've had negotiating my own deals, teaching and coaching negotiators,  and the direct feedback from the participant "laboratory," I've learned that there are basically three distinct reasons why people fail to achieve a fair and comfortable outcome for themselves, and the other party:

1. Lack of clarity - simply put, people show up to the negotiations table not even knowing what they want. They simple don't take the time to get clear, focus and prepare.

2. Their way or the highway - to make matters worse, they hunker down on how they want things to play out, and alienate the other party in the process.

3. They are trying to take, and it doesn't work - they are more concerned with what they're going to get, rather what they can freely give to add value to the other side first.

Obviously, when anyone approaches negotiations this way, the outcome might be a temporary win, but it does so much harm long-term. Trust is erroded, relationships are bruised, and the doors of opportunity are often slammed shut.

To be an effective negotiator, it is imperative that we add value to the other party first and foremost. We must be clear from the beginning on what we want to achieve, and what we're willing to give and ask for to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. 

If you are ready to develop or hone your skills as a skilled negotiator, look into our upcoming negotiations seminars, and join us for an experience that will get you results for the rest of your career.

Influential People Sell Themselves Authentically

There is nothing worse than having to endure a "sales pitch." I absolutely hate to be sold to. and I'm pretty sure you do too. In my opinion, the absolute worse form of this is when we are bombarded by an "interruption" sales pitch.

I've almost decided to completely stop shopping at Sam's Wholesale Club because, every time I walk down the left hand isle, I get accosted by the Direct TV sales people who jump directly into my path and ask me if they can ask me a quick question. "Sorry, man, you just did. No thank you . . ." and, more importantly, "how dare you?" In what world do they think people still respond to that crap?

If that wasn't enough, I have to get a sales pitch about Sam's Cash Back program every single time I check out. Every damned time! I think some people give in just to avoid future sales pitches.

We all know that nobody likes to be sold to, but that everyone loves to buy stuff. The difference is obviously who's idea it was in the first place, and the way we are assisted in the buying process. In other words, I make an emotional decision that I need or want something, I proactively seek out a solution and then and only then am I open to a sales person helping make that purchase.

Most of the time I don't need anyone's help at all. However, let's just say I did. At that point, how does the salesperson do their job effectively without pissing me off or making me second guess my buying?

Well, it's the exact same way we should all sell ourselves and our ideas, products and/or services. Authentically! Here's how it looks . . .

1. Serve - You must determine in your mind, before you even have a conversation with your potential "buyer," that no matter what the outcome, you're going to give your face off. You're having the conversation for one reason only - to give. When you approach your "selling" conversation this way, the other party feels it, and it begins to lower their sales resistance organically.

2. Ask good questions - The best way to do this is to be fully present in the conversation, give the ball to the other person, let them have control of the conversation, and ask the next logical question that will help you understand what they value, and what exactly they're looking for.

3. Listen - When you honestly and fully let go of your own agenda for the conversation, many serendipitous things begin to happen. Among them are the little insights and opportunities to add value that you may not have come to the conversation anticipating. Another is that, very quickly, you begin to understand what it is that they value as it relates to the potential purchase of your stuff.

4. Add value - Once you understand what it is they value, you must immediately do two critical things:

a. Scrap what you had originally planned on offering them.

b. Give them what they've just told you they value.

b. Partner with them to see what they may and/or may not be open to trying.

5. Have a partnering conversation - at this point in the conversation, you'll have a pretty good idea of what your potential buyer values as it relates to your offer, but you'll still need to clarify a few things so you can land your plane on their runway. This is where a "suppose that, what if, would you consider, how about" conversation needs to proceed making an offer. For more detail on how to have that conversation, read this.

6. Put the buyer in control - once you've discerned the "must haves" from the "nice to haves," you can add value to their buying experience by connecting the dots as to how what they really value can be met by what you're offering. Once you've done that successfully, you simply put a gentle offer on the table and let them decide what their next course of action will be.

If you've done a good job with steps 1-5, more times than not, they will make the decision to buy what you're offering - as long as it is of value and meets the needs/wants they were looking to have met.

If you will follow those six simple steps each and every time you get the opportunity to "sell" your ideas, products, services and/or yourself, you will see your efforts amplified immediately.

When you do, please come back to this post and share the results so we can share in your success and give you a virtual high five!


The Most Important Conversation You Can Have as a Sales Professional

After fourteen years as a successful sales professional, and six and a half years of training & coaching sales professionals, I find that there's one critical conversation that only the absolute best of all sales professionals are having with their customers.

I admit that this is not a conversation I was having as a sales professional, but it is one that every single sales professional, and I as a small business owner, should have on a regular basis, with each and everyone of our customers.

I refer to it as the partnering conversation. Now, if believe that you already know what this is all about, I invite you challenge yourself, and stay tuned.

If you are a sales professional, or a sales manager, this one thing, injected into your current sales process, could blow your current numbers out of the water - literally overnight. Bold claim I know, but stick around and you'll see.

This partnering conversation should take place between the investigation and solution recommendation stages of your sales process.

It's a conversation where neither the sales professional, nor the customer, is committing to anything discussed. It goes like this: 

Sales professional (introducing creative options):

"Suppose we . . ." "Have you considered . . .?" "What if we . . ." "Would you be willing?" "Could you possibly . . ." "What would it mean if . . .?"

Or some other verbiage that get creative ideas flowing, and on the table, with out raising sales resistance, or causing the customer to shut down.

Starting that conversation can be as easy as prefacing those questions with something like:

"I'm not committing to anything here, nor am I asking for a decision on your part, but what if . . .?'"

This makes it safe for the customer to engage in hypothetical back and forth without the threat or fear of committing to anything in that moment.

When, and only when, the customer engages in the conversation with agreement, or some version of "well we can't necessarily do that, but what about this?," you know that you have successfully gotten the customer to invest in the solution creating process and partnering with you.

I've heard it said, time and time again, that "people support what they help create." If you're consistently getting push back, or objections, even to objections that you've covered before they've arisen, it's because your customer doesn't feel invested in the solution creation process.

Why would they buy something that is not their idea? We all know that nobody like to be sold to, but everybody likes to buy stuff. We also are aware that the difference between the two is who came up with the idea.

If you never engage your customer in a legitimate partnership conversation, don't be surprised if they disconnect when you recommended your solution.

However, if you successfully engage in that partnership conversation, more times than not, if you did a thorough job from the start of your sales process up to that point, you will not have to use "closing techniques" to win the business.

It will echo what one of my mentors told me many years ago: "If you have to close, then you don't know how to sell."

I have come to understand, since he said that, that it simply means if you know how to get your customer creating the solution with you, they can't wait to buy.

Start injecting this conversation into your current sales process, and then come back to this post and share your experience in a comment below. I'd love tho hear about it.

If you have a question about this post, leave it below in the comment section, and I will do my best to help you out.

If you would like to have me do a FREE lunch-and-learn or sales meeting webinar for your sales professionals, on this topic, send me an email at 

Article by R. Duane Huff