Archive for the ‘Sales Articles’ Category

Your Sales Ingredients to Success: Part IIIc

May 3, 2008

Now that you have listened and gathered as much information as possible during the “question session”, it is now time to move on to the stages of negotiation.


The challenge most sales people seem to have here is the excitement they have of selling the features of their product instead of focusing on how their product is actually going to help them out. So the first law of negotiation is to remember that you are there to make a recommendation, not sell them on how good your product is.

Let me illustrate: I had a New York Life sales agent come to my office several months ago to present some interesting information to me. I have to admit he did not really ask many questions as to what was the best thing for my family. Instead, he proceeded to take out his laptop and give me his rote presentation on the features of a new program that had come out recently and was thoroughly excited about it. I admired his enthusiasm. He definitely knew what he was talking about. But I was not interested. He had no clue what I really wanted, he wanted to show me what “he” thought was best for my family and I. Instead of making a recommendation to fix what I wanted or needed, he only told me what he wanted me to hear.

The sad part is I actually thought the new program was a good one. But I didn’t purchase the program from him.

So you may ask, Steve, what do you mean make a recommendation? Well think about it. Why would you spend all that time asking questions, gathering information, and discovering the issues your prospect has just to end up sharing the same presentation over again that you have shared before?

So personalize it!

Your goal is to fix a problem, not sell them on the same idea that you’ve shared with countless others over and over again.

Application-Based Presentations

So the solution is for you to be so knowledgeable about your product or service that you are not being spontaneous about the presentation, rather you are well prepared to focus on those items that need to be addressed with the same excitement and enthusiasm you have to share your rote presentation. And do it in a different order!

One of the best ways to address this in the negotiation process is to involve the prospect as much as possible. Let them feel it, touch it, experience it, etc. Remove the fear and confusion by having them test it out as much as possible to see what you are recommending rather than just making the recommendation. If it has to do with numbers, let them punch the numbers in the calculator, etc. This allows them to mentally transfer ownership to themselves prior to signing the paperwork. This is very powerful!

The Price War

This is the most common issue that comes up in any negotiation process. If you are an amateur, your greatest fear is the price. The veteran never sees price as an issue.

The great news is that the answer to this is simple. I will write a very small article after this post to address the issue of price and how you can avoid these issues in more detail. The simple answer is if price is still an issue, you have not created enough value for your product or service. That is the only answer.

This is why the section I wrote on questioning is so critical. You need to know everything. You need to know all the problems that need to be satisfied. You must know the challenges, risks, and other struggles that they are trying to avoid and are important to them.

Address these issues first. Never discuss price until all items are discussed. You need to create a perceived value before issuing the price. If they see the value it must be higher than what they are willing to pay. A lot of the times sales people think they need to price things down to get the deal done. Guess what? You’re wrong! Because guess what happens the next time you meet? They will want it cheaper! The cheaper you go the cheaper they will want it and the cheaper they will expect it or look elsewhere. Just remember: Cheap is cheap. go back to the values and what your service or product will accomplish for them. Be specific. Always point out how each benefit helps their issue at hand. Never assume they will know what the benefit is!

So as promised, the next post will address price in a bit more detail and then on to the final ingredient in your recipe for success!


Your Sales Ingredients to Success: Part IIIb

April 24, 2008

Today we are going to focus on the second section of negotiating, namely the questions we ask during the process of negotiating the deal.

Questions: Discovering the How, Why, When and Where

The biggest thing I need to mention here is good preparation makes for good questions. While there are basic questions that need to be addressed with every client, nevertheless every client is unique, so tailoring the items that need discussing is critical.

One caution here though: Always remember that most sales people have presentations that sound completely canned. And in our day, our cans even come with a pop-a-top! How convenient! So just be aware of yourself and your presentation to avoid the pop-a-top action…it’s loud and completely noticeable. Just trust me on that one!

  • Open-Ended – These are the types of questions you should ask because your goal is to find out how they fell, what the are thinking, and what they truly want. If you use too many “yes or no” type questions, you not only get limited answers, but it can very discouraging for other people responding and they are certainly not going to warm up to you to share more detail.
  • Need-Based – You need to have true insight into what they need to accomplish. One of the ways to do this effectively is to ask them what is keeping them from accomplishing what they want. Have them describe the limitations. Some people don’t do this because they are afraid the answers may be the very problems their own product has. Don’t worry about that! Remember, we are looking for a good fit and if we truly can resolve the issue, why waste each other’s time?
  • Motivational – These are unique from the needs side in that they explore the desires and feelings of what is wanted. What is the true motivation behind the decision? Most of the time this can also pinpoint the time-frame for the buying decision so that you have a calendar of when things need to get done. Are their deadlines that need to be met? Is there some training involved to get them to that level quicker? Truly discover the motivation behind the needs and wants.
  • Probe; don’t Pry – I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to sales professionals that say things like, “You do want to save money right?” or “You do want to get this done by the end of the week right?”. I am sure you can see how unreceptive you might be if someone asked you these questions. How would you respond? You already know the answer to this anyway because you asked the right questions in the first place, so avoid the offensive questions you already know the answers to. Be cautioned about how you phrase the questions as well. This is where preparation ahead of time can help you think of better ways to ask the right questions.
  • Keep it simple – Keep your questions simple and easy to answer. Why? Because one you don’t want to make them feel stupid or ignorant to their own problems. Ask questions they will definitely know the answers too, and again keep in mind the phrasing. The smarter they feel in answering your questions, the greater you make them feel.
  • 3 Levels deep – This is a principle I learned long ago when I served a mission for my church in Chicago. It is a principle that basically says if you haven’t gone at least 3 levels deep, then you still don’t know what they truly want.
  • Guide the Interview – Be sure to ask questions that guide the conversation where it needs to go. Some people do like to ramble, so be aware off this and always find ways to bring the conversation back to the main focus: resolving their problem. I have seen so many sales professionals that use this guidance as an excuse to provide the answers for the prospect. This accomplishes nothing! At that point all you have done is come to your own conclusions without really addressing the main concerns or getting the real answers.
  • Listen to the Silence – I know we covered the listen part in the last section, but I cannot emphasize this enough as it accompanies a word that most people for some reason fear: Silence. Have you ever been in a conversation and let there be a moment of silence? It so powerful, but most sales people think that if there is silence that this is a bad thing. It is the complete opposite! It gives everyone a chance to reflect for a brief moment and truly think about their response. Don’t ever feel like you need to fill in a moment of silence. More often than not, this moment of silence was exactly what was needed. So let it happen! Think about it. When there is silence, are you not at the edge of your seat waiting for the response? When there is silence, how much more likely are you to truly listen to the response that comes because you had to wait a little extra for it?

So there you have it. In the last section of part 3, we are going to get into the details of negotiating. Please feel free to leave comments or email if there are specific examples or challenges you are facing in this area that I can address.

Your Sales Ingredients to Success: Part IIIa

April 23, 2008

So before moving on to the “real” part III of these ingredients, I wanted to address the area of listening as it is a subject that I think needs to be detailed a tad bit more. As I thought about the section of negotiating, I also realized that listening is a part in and of itself. So this section will be dedicated to that of listening. A reader asked me to help out with more questions as well to understand this part of the process to develop a good basis for negotiating, so I am going to include another section on questions. As a result, part 3 will have a listening section, a questions section, and then the negotiating section. So on to listening!


Here are some key factors when it comes to listening. You may have heard these before, but the reality is you have to think about how well you are actually applying them to your sales process and in your presentations and negotiating skills.

  • Listen; Don’t Talk – Basically what I am trying to say here is pay attention. In fact, paraphrase what they are saying in your own words just to be clear. Sometimes they struggle conveying what it is they are trying to say, so listen first and then see if you understood it.
  • Switch off the Negative – Sometimes we hear or know things about those we are presenting to that keep us from concentrating on what is being said. Turn those thoughts off! Be receptive to their message, since it is going to help you in your delivery later.
  • Don’t Plan Ahead– What?! What do you mean don’t plan? What I am trying to say here is oftentimes as people are speaking, we are always thinking about what we are going to be saying next. Remember, you are not on your time, but theirs. Their agenda is your agenda until you know what they want to present later.
  • Analyze – Think about what they are saying and what they are not saying. This is similar to the listening part mentioned above, but by analyzing what is said it helps in paraphrasing and trying to understand what is truly behind their reasons for wanting what you have.
  • No Interruptions! – Not only is it inconsiderate, it is rude, and can ruin their train of thought as they seek to express why and when they will buy from you. Why would you want to jeopardize knowing that information?!
  • Gauge them in Conversation – Asking the right questions is critical here. Plus it shows you are truly listening and asking deeper questions because you are being genuine in knowing and understanding their wants and needs.
  • Take Notes – Ask permission to take notes during the conversation. Jot down the most important points to remind you later how to prepare your presentation or to refer back to later on in the meeting to clarify and adjust your presentation.
  • No Distractions – I remember when I was playing baseball, one of the player’s dad owned this airplane (you know the kind…very loud and sometimes had flapping words dancing in the wind as it rolled in the sky). Every year with the new freshmen that came in, this dad would fly the airplane overhead during tryouts. For those of us who were veterans we knew the routine, but for the newbies, they had no clue that the coach was testing them on how distracted they were during play and testing. I am sure you can imagine what happened to those who just couldn’t focus. You need to concentrate on your client, whether or not that sign flying by in the sky has your name on it!
  • Focus – Look them in the eye; lean forward; use gestures of understanding and body language that shows you are listening.
  • Calm and Collected – Part of the focus factor is to remain calm even when the client may get revved up in what they are sharing.

So there you have it! Like I said, this may be a repeat of things you may already know, but even the greatest sales gurus review the fundamentals. Especially on a down day.

Your Sales Ingredients to Success: Part II

April 22, 2008

So here we are to the second step to your sales ingredients. I apologize for not writing sooner as personal issues with my home and the fun sewer line has caused some delays, but I am back!

Presenting the Solution

  • Finding out the problems – Before you can truly present a solution, you need to understand the need or more importantly, the want. One the challenges many sales people face here is they like to jump right into the features of their product before they even understand whether or not the product is going to help the prospect or not.
  • Whose schedule are you on? – One of the other challenges is recognizing that the prospect is moving on their own time schedule, not yours. Are you willing to dedicate the time necessary to close a deal? Does the time needed justify the time spent? Don’t rush, and don’t ever sell when you need to, because the focus is no longer on them, but on you. Trust me…they’ll know.
  • Know the why – Why would they make a purchase now or in the future? What might some of the resistances be? Now this is not an invitation to pull out your set of answers to pre-determined questions or concerns that might come up. You need to truly gauge the prospect and understand the solution they actually need and want.
  • Budget – what budget are you working with? Are their constraints that need to be known up front? What is the buying cycle (same as above in knowing the time frame to buy)? What have they bought in the past (and not just from you but from competitors as well)?

Engage the Prospect

In order to truly present the right solution, there is an engaging process that needs to take place to get you the right information as you prepare the solution. Prospects can read you very well. When I interview people I can always tell when I ask a question or say something that puts the candidate in an interesting position. That’s why I ask them of course! They can see your confidence, attitude and belief about your product based on gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other movements (eyes, hands, etc). So if you are nervous, you need to rethink your position.

When I played baseball, it did not matter how good my skills were, or how well the strategies we had in place worked int he past. If I was nervous, or mentally out of it, I did not play well. Period. You are entering the game at this point, so be ready to play the mental game. Don’t worry so much about the skills as you have practiced already (at least I am assuming you have) just play the game. When I coached little league, I always told the players to focus on what they were good at during the game and nothing else. Practice was a time to focus on shortcomings, but once you started the game the only thing you should be thinking about is how good you are, and how great you are going to play.

When you sit down to present, you are in the game. FOCUS.


It all starts with listening. And not just to words, but you need to be what is known as an active listener. What is an active listener? Well I am out of time for today, so I will post tomorrow for sure and continue with a fun list of ways to know if you are good listener in the sales process. This will lead into our third part in negotiating the details. Until then!

Your Sales Ingredients to Success

February 11, 2008

In sales, there are many approaches to 4 specific processes each with their own special ingredients that you will need to cook up a great recipe for your sales career. Having read many sales books from many professionals, there are 4 common themes and some very critical parts to those themes that create a successful sales career which I have personally used and trained others on using to their success. These 4 processes, in order: Finding the Prospect; Presenting the Solution; Negotiating the Details; and Making the Close.

Be Careful About the Process!

One of the challenges in looking at a process like this is to believe that these areas are finite, or in other words, you have to accomplish one before you get to the other. While a part of this train of thought rings true (in part because you can’t sell something to someone you haven’t met yet), the reality is these processes compliment each other and one without the other is a recipe for disaster. But like a good recipe, the order of the ingredients does not always matter, yet having all of the ingredients there is critical. Have you ever eaten a batch of cookies without the salt? More on salt later…

So this first article is going to focus on the Prospecting piece, and then future articles will cover the other 3 categories in a recipe for a sales process that will help you get the deal done without “overcooking”.

Finding the Prospect

Let’s get started with the first step in the process, which is finding someone to sell your product or service to in the first place. So here are the ingredients for this part of the sales recipe:

  • Cold Calling – Ah yes, the one thing that most sales gurus will tell you is the worst ingredient in the recipe. But I will tell you right now, that cold calling is like the salt in your recipe. While most recipes only require a very small amount that almost seems insignificant when compared to all other ingredients, it is a critical part of the recipe. In fact, the truly successful sales professionals will tell you that cold calling is the one thing that keeps them at the top of their game. It is a chance to practice new ideas, products, etc. Cold calling was the very thing that helped me practice on what to say and how to say it before speaking to some of those prospects where it really made a difference in my career. If you can’t cold call, you can’t sell. Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that cold calling is the best way to source for referrals; I am just saying that it is one of those arrows in the quiver that should be sharpened and prepared to go when needed because you never know when you will need to be ready to shoot.
  • Scripts – Most sales people work from a script. Not because they do not know what they are talking about. On the contrary, they know very well the subject matter, the product, what they are going to say, etc. But the script allows you to have a specific guideline. In fact, if you have a script but haven’t been using it, I dare you to go back to it and see if it makes a difference in a week. Having a script is like lifting weights, running, biking, etc in preparation for a big tournament. You have always heard the cliché that preparation is the key to everything. Well your script is that preparation.
  • Preparation Before the Call – This is probably one of the most overlooked parts of the process at this stage, but is one of the most essential skills in finding the prospects and is closely related to scripts. You need to invest your time in learning about the prospect or the company that you are trying to reach. The more you do this, the more prepared you will feel when you call. This also builds confidence and knowledge in how to approach this person or company for the first time. Plus this will lead to more active referrals as you research and try to find out more about the organization, opening more doors than you may be able to keep up with. And even more important than that, one of the most common mistakes sales people make is talking to the wrong person. I have had many calls in my career of sales people that are so excited to get me on the phone that they frantically try to set me up for another appointment to speak to me in more detail without even verifying if I am the decision maker. You need to ask up front. In other words, are they the ones that sign the check? If not, then you have not prepared enough yet. Ask them several times if they are the decision maker with different questions just to be sure.
  • Breaking the Ice – Again, the gurus will tell you that the best way to start any conversation is to ask “How are you?” or something along those lines. I call this smoke (which is a very fancy term for something that clouds what it is you are trying to see) or in this case, clouding the purpose of the conversation. Bill Brooks in his book Sales Techniques calls it unsolicited small talk. The Brooks Group has done studies as well that have shown that the majority of decision makers in the sales process are completely turned off by this, and they do not start any conversation off well at all. This is due to the fact that you are not building any credibility by asking such questions, and can be seen as unprofessional. Instead, get straight to the point. If you have a script, this will already be listed out as your statement of intent. The purpose of the call is to discuss the ways in which you could be of service, so why not get right into it? Small talk can come a little later, especially if initiated by the other person on the line. Then welcome it, but keep your goal in mind; the purpose of the call.

In Conclusion for Now

So now that you have done your research, you have prepared to make the calls, and have now started finding prospects, it is time to move on to the next step. Next we will get into Presenting the Solution and the common problems most sales people run into and what you should consider when presenting to your prospects.

Are you Ready for Sales Marriage? (Part III)

November 1, 2007

So I hope that the first two posts about sales marriage have been extremely helpful as you discover what sales marriage is and what it should be, and whether or not it is a relationship that you want to be in. In this final article for creating a sales marriage we are going to discuss the organizational attributes of the company you are looking at and focus on several questions that you will need to find answers to in helping to complete the marriage so that a fulfilling life together will be successful.

Here are some of the questions that need to be considered and are going to be discussed in a bit more detail in this final article.

How flexible does someone need to be to survive in their sales environment?
What is the sales management approach in training and thereafter?
What are they willing to teach you as a salesperson?
What aren’t they willing to teach you?
What corporate baggage does the organization have?

So with these questions in mind, let’s get started!

Consider the organizational Attributes that Makes it Successful

Stretch for Flexibility
Flexibility in a sales environment can do two things: it can either be extremely beneficial in stretching you to become better (which should be something you are seeking) or it may be the very type of environment you are already trying to escape from, not allowing for growth. As mentioned in the 2nd part to this article, you need to avoid the rebound relationships, because most rebounds are an escape to the core issues at hand, and without digging deep to focus on those core issues, the relationship will fail. So what make a sales professional successful in their environment? Does compensation change often or not at all? Is it different in different divisions and what accounts for those differences? You need to clearly define the long-term or strategic aspects of the position. There needs to be a demonstration that there is indeed more opportunities to stay on a faster track if the individual does indeed perform at a high level.

One of the very things that attracted me to TrueNorth in the first place was the “newness” of the organization, yet they have a very solid foundation within the industry. Just in the short 6 months that I have been here I have seen some incredible growth, including new partners that are increasing the standards of what we already offer, which in turn has also increased the standards of the interview process in our hiring practices to find top talent that are attracted to growth. Those who are successful in our environment are those that see sales as a process, not a hard close. Having a passion about what we are doing for people in coaching them is also a key point in that flexibility. This is a new industry for you, or a new environment from what you did for a competitor. At the same time, how flexible are you to being stretched? When I played baseball I had some great coaches, but I have to say that the coaches that I respected the most were the same ones that I hated on certain days because of the push for me to excel and go beyond what I had done before. I am grateful for those “stretching” exercises.

Approach and Training
So in addressing this area of questioning, understanding the sales approach is a must. Is it a hands-on type of training, or more of a distant observer? What kind of feedback is given and how specific are the details in that feedback? With that feedback, how often are goals set to achieve something greater and how often are reviews conducted? What are you being graded on? Do those measures make sense in your own personal development? Is there classroom training, or do you just watch someone from the sidelines?

Understanding the answers to these questions is critical. Knowing how well you deal with a certain type of management approach is extremely important, but at the same time, you also need to be coachable. Just because you were the #1 sales professional at your last organization does not mean you will be #1 in this new organization. You need to personally sit down and focus on what makes you YOU. I will be writing another article at a later date in regards to how you can focus on you and who you are, where you are at as a professional sales person, and really determining whether or not you should even be in sales. Sometimes it is not the coach, but the player. Not everyone is fit to play, not because they can’t learn it, but because it just isn’t the right match. Understanding what approach is good for you is important, and understanding how the new organization is going to approach YOU in training and beyond will need to be known and discussed.

The great part about TrueNorth Academy in this area is that our training approach has been set up to mimic the very coaching programs that we train our clients on. As a result, you will enjoy a classroom setting as well as personal one-on-one attention. Part of the training puts you on the phone as well, since that is where applying what you are learning is key to you being successful, giving you the ability to focus on some weaknesses that may be troubling you.

Coach or be Coached
I am going to address the next two questions in this section since they are related in several ways. What the organization is willing to train on or not will reveal one of the most important observations: What is the quality of the team that you will be working with?

So why is this so important? Because the quality of your future as a coworker, making new friends at work, and possible leadership roles in the future is critical to your satisfaction in the “sales marriage”. There is a proverb I have always enjoyed that says “Keep company with good men and good men you will imitate”. I took this advice seriously when I started my professional recruiting career. I figured that if I hang out with those that are wealthy and make 6-figures, then I should be making 6-figures. By my second year, I had achieved this goal and have ever since. Sure I worked about 80-90 hours per week that first year, and yes I missed my little girl’s first year of life (pretty much) but now I can enjoy the rest of her life and the work has paid off. The growth is tremendous and I love what I do. (And for those that think recruiting is not sales related, we need to talk).

Will you be in company with good men and women? Are you surrounded by people just getting started in their careers, or seasoned professionals in your same situation learning a new industry? Understanding what they are going to teach during the training and what they are expecting from you already is very important so you can go into the relationship with no surprises. They may even have some materials you can read or focus on prior to starting to prepare for the new relationship.

In looking at TrueNorth, we are looking for a little more seasoned professional that is willing to train and learn. During the interview process, we address all the questions that we feel are extremely important for you to be successful in the role. It is because of this process that we hope those that do interview are honest with us be even more honest with themselves about these questions since we want to see the success of others in these roles. We are also working on a new program that will be used to train better, certify you in SPIN selling (a concept that we use in our approach) and overall create a successful environment for you. There are also several books I can recommend to really improve your sales career, irregardless of how long you have been selling or how good you think you are. We can always improve.

The Baggage We Carry
This last question is a fun one for me because it can be such a controversial subject. But let’s be honest: all of us have baggage. So do organizations. One of the things I learned in working with the “good men” of my professional career is not only to eliminate the hype, but also to leave nothing on the field (I know, another baseball analogy, but you understand right?).

Relationships are built on trust and communication. So are organizations. If you cannot trust the people that you work with, why would you even communicate with them? If the organization cannot take the time to answer your questions thoroughly and be up front about the roles, how honest are they going to be once you are hired? By the same token though, you have to be careful not to interpret information into what you want to hear. You will just be deceiving yourself, and later you will be bitter and it will be your own fault.

So what is baggage? While I will not go into the Arabic origins of the word, what I will do is give a definition using questions based on what you should be looking for. Why is the company hiring? Is it because of recent layoffs? Is it because of a high turnover rate? Is it because of growth? These are important questions to ask in terms of baggage.

Other baggage items to consider are the challenges that sales people in this role experience. One of the best ways to do this is to speak with some of the sales people. Some companies do not allow people to be available (which is understandable, because you may be a competitor trying to steal someone away or find out secrets or whatever), but if you hang around a little bit afterwards you are bound to run into someone you can talk to. Just simply ask if it is possible to speak to someone else within the role first. If that doesn’t work, I promise if you are really serious about looking, you will find someone to speak with.

Ask about the most challenging things to come with selling the product or service. This requires true introspection and honesty, so if they think about it first, then you probably are getting an honest answer, but if they go right away into an answer, they are probably saying what they have said over and over again to overlook the question and not hit the question head on. Look for signs that tell you whether or not they are coming with more baggage than you want to handle right now.

Every sales organization has some baggage, but it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes those baggage items were great learning experiences, and unfortunately it was a phase that they went through, but what’s done is done now. The experience was taken into consideration, new concepts and principles were applied, and they are moving forward. Find out about goals and where the company sees their current model going, as well as the ideas and plans in place to get them there. They may not be able to go into all details or specifics, but most will have a general idea.

In regards to TrueNorth in this scenario, I will hold those details for a personal interview, since most of our “secret sauce” is extremely important to our business model, and there is only so much I can share. So you will get a taste, but I won’t give you the recipe!

So there you have it! Your deep commonality of needs and values coupled with those of a great organization will make for a successful “Sales Marriage”. So get wooing!

Are you Ready for Sales Marriage? (Part II)

November 1, 2007

In the first part of this article, we discussed the characteristics of the product you will be selling and finding out if this fits with what it is you would enjoy doing. The second thing you should be thinking about is the “processes” in joining an organization. Oftentimes the process can reveal many things about the organization before an offer is even made. While this section will cover many of the questions you need to find answers to during your interview process, this is not a comprehensive list. There are probably dozens of others, but suffice it to say, these are generally some of the most important.

Consider the Processes: From the Interview, to Being Hired, to Training and Continued Development

When you are considering a new career option, you always need to consider the process that it takes to land you the position and then continually evaluate the processes in place to make you successful. Now obviously not every organization is going to be completely perfect when it comes to all of these processes, but if you could give them a grade, how would you rate them? Here are the main processes to consider:

– What is the interview process like?
– What is the process like after the interview?
– When and how is an offer made to join the organization?
– What is the training like?
– What benefits exist and how will you be able to continue to development and stretch yourself to grow in your career?

The Interview. There is much that can be said about the interview. Obviously every organization will do it differently, but there are probably a few things that you should take note on.

The first thing is when you go in to interview and see the atmosphere. Is this an environment that looks professional, inviting, and somewhere you can see yourself working? Again, no company is perfect, but there does need to be a genuine sense of cleanliness, professionalism and overall “care” that has been taken in the office environment. In the interview itself, think about the interviewer, the questions being asked and the information covered. Obviously there is not a lot of time to cover everything, but the interviewer is all talk and really is not finding out more about your career and qualifications, it may be just about the hype. Do you sense there is desperation in their attempts to recruit you? Or are they genuinely trying to find a good fit based on experience, education, environment, etc? The questions themselves should be well thought out and organized to allow the interviewer to truly cover those things that are important to the organization. If you feel the questions are too basic, or do not go deep enough, you may want to consider this in your search for a fit.

Another practice I have unfortunately seen in our industry as well as other sales industries I have recruited for is the need to “bash” the competition. If the interviewer feels the need to speak about the competitors, it should be in a good light or should focus on the value of what their personal organization offers rather than on what others can’t do. Now in your personal research (which I would expect you to be doing), I know you will be very interested in understanding the differences and understanding the competition which is very important, so it is definitely appropriate to ask and find out more, just take note on how this type of question is handled by the interviewer.

The last thing to think about in the interview process has been mentioned briefly already, but I mention it again because it is very common in sales organizations: HYPE. It’s rather funny to me that some people feel that hype and boasting wins someone over. In almost every case I have seen, no one wants to be “sold” to. I remember an interview with an organization near Bountiful during my last move that I made. I hardly said anything in the interview because the interviewer did most of the talking about things that were not important to me. He focused on making money at whatever the cost and brought in several people that seemed like slick city folk looking to make money no matter what, which they must have because they were making thousands and millions. Were they rich? Absolutely. But my question was how wealthy were they? Hype often means you will be using the old school method of selling using torture techniques to close a deal.

Just talk about the features. Have a list of doubts with answers to rebuttal anything. Apply pressure, and close. Oh, and don’t forget to not let them say anything about what they want, because they don’t really know. Apply more pressure, close again. Repeat if necessary.

Silly isn’t it? I will NEVER work with those types of people. Just like true professional sales should be, if the partnership and doing business together makes sense, why would I have to hype it up into something it isn’t or ramble on about the money when it should never be JUST about the money anyway? Besides, in my sales experience, this type of practice leads to refunds. In hiring, this same practice leads to turnover. In a sales marriage, it’s kind of like the rebound relationship right after a break up. You jump from one to the next, wondering why you keep having such bad luck. Well luck can be controlled if you know what to look for and avoid the rebounds in the first place.

Post Interview. So now that the interview is complete, you are on an emotional high right? Well you should be if the interview process fulfilled what we have just talked about. If you don’t have any excitement about it, or if you didn’t lose sleep that night, it may not be the right type of relationship. There needs to be a passion, and remember passion can exist without hype. One of the best ways to measure this is thinking about ho many people you spoke to about it after the interview. Did you speak to a spouse, a roommate, a friend, mom, or dad?

So now you need to think about the next step. Did the interviewer explain the process or just send you on your way? Did you even ask what the next step was? In my experience, I always leave a homework assignment for those who have come in. Why? Because I am trying to see if they have that passion I just mentioned. If you truly felt the passion, you will call me back, or leave a message or send an email. I make it simple: I give you a homework assignment called the “Interview Script”. It accomplishes two things: first it tells me that you are genuinely interested in moving forward since you took the initiative to call me and leave it on my voicemail. Second, I do grade them, and let’s be honest: at TrueNorth, everything you do is over the phone. So this allows me to hear you on the phone saying some of the very things you are going to be saying to our clients’ every day. So of course I want to know what you sound like on the phone and more importantly, if you can read a script without sounding like you are reading it to me. Is the company you just interviewed with taking it this seriously as well?

The Offer. Written documentation is a must. If verbally they just say you will start next Monday and there is no written agreement, I would question their hiring practices. If they are a good sales organization looking seriously to find the right types of candidates, there should be some formal agreement that is created and distributed to you. For TrueNorth, no offer is made without something in writing signed by myself. We will be very up front about everything in that offer letter including any legal documents that need to be signed before coming in. There is no reason to hide anything, and if they can’t take the time to formally agree to a position in writing, why would you agree with an offer that does not technically and often does not legally exist as well?

The Training. There is much that can be said here as well. How long is the training? What are the expectations during training? Will you be getting one-on-one attention, or just sit next to someone and shadow for a few days? The more serious the organization takes training, the more committed you know they are in YOUR development (which we will discuss in the next section). That should be very important to you and the organization in establishing this “sales marriage” we have discussed here.

One of the added benefits of working at TrueNorth is not only the 3 week “Sales Academy” (which is our training program for new folks) but after 90 days, all of our employees gain access to our coaching materials as well. It’s kind of like a library, where you can check out those items that are interesting to you in learning. So the training goes beyond just the sales roles. In fact, in our September 2007 newsletter, The Compass, our CEO Mike Gillespie said,

“Regardless of what you do for the company, just know you are a key part of our mission to Educate and empower people to make positive change. So if you’re ever having a challenging day, don’t lose perspective on the impact your life’s work is having on others. I would also challenge you to take advantage of the programs we offer, learn how to invest in the markets, buy and sell real estate, and reduce your debt. Our mission includes educating and empowering YOU to make positive change. Thanks for all you do.”

Continued Development. So if the role does not offer an immediate stretch from what you have done in the past, you may get bored quickly. Continued development of your career and abilities is crucial to your remaining happy (believe me or not). It is amazing to me to see people that at one point were quite successful, but decided to “take a break” from the stretch that helped them achieve that success in the first place. If the role is not challenging, why take it on? There is always something exhilarating about taking on a new challenge. When you think about it, those people that pushed you to excel are the ones you respect the most. They saw the potential in you when all you could see was the list of leads staring at you from the desk next to the phone you had to pick up again. (Yes, I have had days where my Toshiba SD20 and I were not on the best of terms).

So how is your sales marriage so far? Is it on the verge of divorce? Blossoming more than ever? Next time, we will discuss the final area of importance to look at when making your career change in sales. Until then!

Are you Ready for Sales Marriage? (Part I)

November 1, 2007

I have been recruiting sales professionals for many years now, and while turnover is always something that you have to deal with, I have always sought to find the right candidate to avoid turnover as much as possible. I was actually reading an article from Lee Salz that inspired this article about sales marriage. Since the vows in this relationship, if taken seriously, can lead to a fantastic career here at TrueNorth, I thought I would start this section of the blog with the most important part of the relationship that we at TrueNorth Academy are seeking in our hiring practices.

Are you ready for sales marriage?

Funny as this may seem, finding sales professionals for me is kind of like bringing two people together to form a “sales marriage”. Appearance is usually enough to initiate a relationship (when I say appearance, I mean the appearance of the company I hire for), but if there is not a deep commitment and a common ground based on the needs and values of those involved, the future of the marriage is bleak. So before you consider a career in sales with TrueNorth or any organization for that matter, there are three areas of focus that you need to consider. Keep in mind as I present these three areas, I will be relating them to working here at TrueNorth specifically, but I believe strongly that the principles here can be applied to any career you are looking into.

Think about it: in the recruiting relationship with those I meet, YOU are interviewing us just as much as WE are interviewing you. So my goal is to find a match that makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, then we part as networking friends. There is no reason not to stay in touch as you never know when our paths may cross again. Circumstances for all of us change throughout our life, so rather than be caught by surprise, let’s maintain a networking relationship so if the need arises, we have someone to turn to.

So here is the first area that you should consider. The remaining two will be discussed in future posts:

Characteristics of What You Will be


It is extremely important to keep in mind what it is you will be selling. If you do not or cannot have a passion about it, why pursue the courtship? Remember that the role of the sales person really is to facilitate the buying process such that it helps both sides determine if it makes sense to do business together. Not every person is going to want the business you have to sell, but by the same token, you may not want to sell the business to just anyone willing to buy. Seems odd at first, but how many of you have experienced a refund and a loss of a commission you were anticipating? What if you could have avoided the refund in the first place by selling it to the right person? Here at TrueNorth, we focus on personal coaching for clients within the investment industries such as Stock Investing, ForEx, & Options Trading. So here are some questions to ask to understand the characteristics of what is being sold to truly know if it is a right fit for you.– What is the nature of the product being sold?
– What is the nature of the buying relationship?
– What will the product accomplish for the end user?
– How recognizable is the product or the company in the marketplace of the buyers?
– In contrast to competitors, where is the pricing for the product? Advantages? Disadvantages?

TrueNorth Academy provides a service. The “service” is the personal coaching program. Think about it: how many times has someone purchased a book, CD, DVD, or attended a seminar on learning how to invest, only to see it land on a bookshelf after a few months to collect dust until it gets sold at a garage sale? TrueNorth has professional traders who have been trading for many years. These traders become a personal coach to these individuals on a one-on-one basis to not only fast-track their implementation of what they have been learning, but to help them overcome some of the pitfalls, fears, and embarrassments when getting started. Let’s face it…it can be scary to trade with REAL money knowing that you could lose it. This is a real fear for our clients. The great news is we can help eliminate this fear by having someone work with them to personalize their learning experience.

The buying relationship is simple: this particular sale is a one-time transaction. The program they sign up for will depend on the individual, but will last for 3-15 months. There are other programs they can pursue after their initial coaching program they sign up for, but this is for the coaches to handle at a later time. Your focus is in the next question.

The end user will become an active investor. When you speak to our clients, they are frustrated, scared, or eager and ambitious. Either way, they all have a major goal in mind: to learn to invest well enough that they can make a nice return every year. Even beyond this goal are a nice retirement income and the possibility to retire early because they understand the principles of their money making more money for them. Our sales professionals focus on asking the right questions and determining a fit to truly see if what the client wants matches with what the coaching programs can do for them. If the puzzle piece does not fit, don’t force it, just move on. Our clients already are very familiar with the product from the start. The nice part about TrueNorth is you work with clients who are already familiar with our partner client. They recognize the company and materials you will speak to them about, and they are already in the market of becoming educated in these investment fields which is why they made their initial purchase, attendance to a seminar, or request for more information in the first place. Not only that, but our partners include some of the more well known organizations in the country within these respective investing fields. We have a strong commitment to making their clients successful, and value the business relationship that we have with them.

In comparison to our competitors, we stand out. You see, most coaching organizations create their own product that they think is great for clients (which is in some cases) and then develop a system to sell it like crazy, and then follow-up to sell coaching and other products or services to increase revenue and go from there. Oftentimes though these products hit a peak, or fizzle out because what one person thought was great, the general populace did not feel the same way. The idea lasts for a time, but something always changes, and they are not ready for those changes. While I cannot go into specific details about how we are different, suffice it to say our partner clients already have a client base where our leads come from. Plus, they are well respected and well known in their fields. In fact, at a recent career fair, I spoke with one of the sales reps of a competitor to us who actually mentioned he refers his own clients to some of the partners that we work with. I faked a chuckle along with him because in my mind, I thanked him for sending us more business.

So in concluding this first series of a sales marriage, be aware of what it is you will be selling. In our case, you want to ask yourself: Do I truly believe in what TrueNorth sells and is it something I can be passionate about? If the answer is yes, then this relationship has already started on solid ground. You need to think about the organization that you are meeting with to start this process of answering these types of questions. Stay tuned for the next two articles on Sales Marriage!