How to sell in a “buyer’s market”

There’s a lot of talk these days about this being a “buyer’s market” with sellers constantly being reminded they’ll be expected to provide additional “concessions” to win the business.

Not so fast!

First, stop selling from a position of fear. Stop worrying about the competition (though absolutely know what they’re doing!). Sell what you have not what you don’t.

Next, elimitate the idea of a concession all together. (No, I’m not crazy. Keep reading, please.)

As soon as you provide or agree to a concession, you are conceding – giving up – something.

You become the loser in the deal and they, the winner.

Admittedly, a few prospects and products thrive on this type of discount-mentality transaction. But most don’t.

Most buyers just want to feel certain they got a great deal, and the best value.

The easiest way to convey this is to eliminate the word concession and replace it with the word “inclusion” or “exception.”

Thinking, writing and talking about “Additional inclusions” or “We’re delighted to provide this exception/exclusive value for you” elevates the conversation and changes the selling dynamics.

Then, exude confidence.

Whether it’s a buyers or sellers market, when you know you have a great product or service and convey that confidence to your buyers, you can change your world.

Personalize Your Proposal … or Die!

Okay… so the heading may be a bit extreme.

Or, maybe not.

Not if you’re in sales and you want to sell.

Being relevant has always been key and thankfully, being authentic – articulating your brand story and presenting your best self – have become prime differentiating factors,too.

Blend personalization and true care into the mix and you have the Golden ticket.

Personalize every email and every proposal. It’s not enough to simply slap the name of the client on the first page of the proposal (yes, they really know you do that). It’s caring enough about their success to take the time to consider which parts of that proposal are important to that buyer, which words matter to them and how you can help them envision their success.

Pop quiz! What is wrong with this proposal?

Thank you for your interest in having your event catered by ABC! We specialize in both Plated and Dinner Station menus and our culinary and service team would love to partner with you! I understand you are interested in having dinner stations at your evening event so I went ahead and put together a proposal for you inclusive of…

Answer: A million things!

Specifically (for this post):
•What type of “event”? Personalize.

•If you know I’m interested in Dinner stations, why begin by telling me you specialize in both plated and dinner station menus? Personalize.

If gabillions of people (I’m one of them and you know you want to, too!) are willing to now pay $5.00 for a personalized bottle of Coke instead of just .79 for a plain bottle with the same ingredients, surely the word is out: Those who personalize are more likely to thrive and those who don’t can expect their sales to die.


3 Ways to Immediately Close More Business

Every sales person needs to close the sale yet the idea of “closing” (think about these examples [but before you play, know these are not G rated clips]:The Wolf of Wall Street , Reco, Glengarry Glenn Ross often feels really sleazy. “ABC” – Always Be Closing – has become obscene.

Yet we are. Ever since we first wanted something, we’ve been working to close the deal. Remember that toy you wanted, gum at the check out line, ice cream? First, we’d ask. Maybe we would be straight forward about the ask. Or cute. Or more polite than normal. At that point, we either closed the deal (of course, I’ll buy that for you), compromised (if you’re a good girl, after dinner tonight, you can have the ice cream), negotiated for a quicker close (if I’m really good could I have it after lunch?) or we might try a different type of close to get the deal sealed more quickly either through a tantrum or some logic (but I’ve been so good all day and even shared with sibling name and helped him make his bed this morning). Whatever… you get the point…we learned to close in many creative ways, and kept trying to close, because the end result was worth it to us.

3 Ways to Close More Business

1. Want it bad enough
If you really, really wanted the ice cream, toy or date, you’d absolutely try a second, third or twentieth attempt – a different type of authentic approach – to get it. With respect, with care and without stalking, do that with your prospect too. Always take control of the next “ask” in your email by writing, “I’ll follow-up later in the month to talk about other exciting possibilities.” If you’re on the phone, the best “ask” is always, “Thank you for letting me know and when would be best to follow-up with you?” (If they say, never, it’s a good time to move to another prospect who needs what you’re selling.)

2. Set smart expectations
When I help sales professionals accelerate sales through email, and ask them, “What do you want to gain from this email?”, their most typical answer is, “Close the business!” or “Convert the lead!.”

Really? “Is that what this email – these few sentences – are supposed to do,” I ask? It’s silly to think that every email can or will close business. Every email can move you and your message a step forward, make the buying experience easier and advance the sale. Of course, that is closing.

3. Concentrate on their buy not your sell
Just because you may need to push your sales numbers up doesn’t mean your buyer needs to buy at this moment. Don’t stalk. Maintain control of the next step always, but uncover their time frames and needs. “When would be a good time to talk more about this?” is a great question to ask. So is, “I’m wondering if you were to move in another direction, what might be the benefits of working with a different vendor?” Then, create an effortless path to ensuring they have what they need when they need it. You can only move to the close if there is nothing to close!

Always be closing, when paired with Always Be Caring is a great motto and will ensure you close more business.


Dump the Mystery Shop to Build More Sales

A new client was explaining how customer-centric his luxury brand is, yet customers, when queried, weren’t exactly feeling the love – nor selecting his hotel.

Me: “Are you shopping your people?”

Him: “Yes, of course. Shop scores are good but conversion isn’t.”

Me: “What’s the first question they’re being told to ask?”

Him: “Well, after a bit of rapport building, they’re required to ask ‘What is your meeting date? and How many rooms will be required?'”

Me: “And after that, what do they ask?”

Him: “More details about their event and then of course, ‘Who else are you considering for this opportunity?’ because we need to know if they’re actually qualified.”

Me: “Do they need to ask those questions in that order to get a great shop score? When do they ask about the purpose of the meeting or what’s the one most important factor to a great meeting or what persuaded them to look at new venues?”

Him: “Yes, in that order for the shop, and they ask those other questions after they find out if the date is available. Really. We get so many inquiries but most don’t fit our demographic so we’re saving them time and of course, our time too.”

Me: Yes, and you mentioned they aren’t closing the business that does fit your key demographic. So if they ask those questions in that order, how exactly is that customer-centric?”

Here is the answer: It isn’t! Yes, of course, it can save the buyer time if you disqualify them but is that really what you want to do?

Research reported in The Top-Performing Sales Organization indicates 53% of sales people do not agree their sales process is customer-focused, yet each of their respective companies makes the claim.

Often the shop is the culprit. It forces transactional thinking and a sales process focus instead of building trust and credibility with a customer-facing focus.

And sales people (rightfully) hate the shop!

What buyers need, and sales professionals want, is show authentic care. Questions – customer-centric questions! – build trust and enable the best options for the buyer.

Dump your mystery shop if you’re using an old-school shop that focuses on sales process and not the buying experience.

Articulate care and value in every communication to move the needle forward and create raving fans.

Emotional authenticity: The Key to Greater Sales Success

I’ve been meaning to start blogging again, with the promise of staying consistently consistent, and reading MPI’s “future of the meetings industry” forced me into it.

It was a post about the EMEC speaker (I won’t say who it is here but he is most definitely a Gen X’er) based on his action photo. He was quoted as saying:

“So much of our daily work in modern organizations is virtual—email, teleconferences, social networks—that physical, human connection is becoming more important than it ever was.”

Hellooooo! That is exactly what John Naisbitt wrote about in 1982 in Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (which can be purchased now for $1.01 on Amazon!).

Here is what the blurb says for his 1999 book called: High Tech, High Touch:


“In a High Tech world with an increasing search for balance, High Touch will be the key to differentiate products and services. “Focusing on the effects of technology in reshaping society, the book brings together a mountain of evidence implicating
technology in relentlessly accelerating our lives and stirring profound yearnings for a more emotionally satisfying existence.”


But no, this isn’t an advertisement for Naisbitt. It is to say that the concept of Emotional Authenticity is and has been the key to Sales Success and Life Success for all time.


The better you can communicate your authentic desire to help your buyer feel (emotionally) safe and smart working with you, the better you can help them envision their authentic and emotionally satisfying outcome, the more you will sell.

The change we should be talking about today, to me, is not high tech, high touch. That has stayed the same. The change is that our products and services – what we offer – has become less important than how we communicate what we offer.

The insights we bring to our buyers and the emotionally satisfying – genuine through and through (caring more about their success than even making the sale!) – make more of a difference today than a bell or whistle or three.

Tim Sanders also got it right years ago with his book, Love is the Killer App, when he said:

“Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.”

Further, he wrote:

“When you represent knowledge, oportunity, selflessness, and intimacy, you are not just a service provider or a product. You are fun, you are interesting, you are valuable; you take people places they have never been before, you show them books they have never heard of, you introduce them to people they never dreamed they would meet — in short, you are the equivalent of a human theme park.”

You want to sell more?

1. Love them more.

2. Demonstrate emotional authenticity.

3. Be a theme park 😉



A False Positive When Selling

My client invited me to skype into her sales meeting.


“Wait until you hear what they think is a legitimate – a hot! – lead. It will make you sick,” she said.


And it did.


When a prospect says, “Sure, send me more info” that is not a HOT lead.


If you’re going to report at tomorrow’s sales meeting that you have a hot lead, that means that your questions have ensured that they have entered your sales funnel, that they are interested in creating additional ROI by working with you, and that you can help them to create more success and happiness than if they went/chose somewhere/something else.


Having the right questions – insight-based thoughtful questions – to ensure your prospects see you  thinking as a trusted partner – an advocate who will help them achieve success, will ensure that you are not reporting a false positive.


So what are the questions you’re comfortable asking?


Why you are likely selling the wrong thing

What matters to your customer?


It’s the only thing that matters.


I was lucky enough today to have a great convo with a DOSM who said she learned from a previous one. He told her that he lost a HUGE and important sale because he knew better than the client.


The client arrived for the site inspection with his Board President. The hotel was far removed from the city, an obstacle the team was always trying to manage/handle/overcome.


So her boss’s first words, after the appropriate thank you were: “I bet the trip from the city seemed like it took forever but we’re actually only X time from the city and our shuttle provides safe, reliable service back and forth so your attendees are always just a shuttle ride away.”


Dead silence.


Meeting planner: Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. The reason you had been at the top of our list was that we would feel secluded, stay together as a team, avoid the city and the distractions.


Yes, he should have found that out during his questioning of needs. But how often do we think we know what will excite the client? How often are we so excited with what we have to offer that we forget to tune in to what the buyer needs and wants?

Tell this story at your sales meeting tomorrow and ask for similar stories. Your team and colleagues will have them and what an awesome learning experience for all.



4 reasons (and what you can do) to get business from your “friends”

One of my very best friends is an independent meeting planner who hires speakers for her clients. But I can’t remember the last time she hired me.

And it’s my fault.
Because of our friendship, I rarely talk business with her, provide talking points to help her sell me or help her defend my pricing to her clients.
In fact, what I’m hearing more and more from buyers is the sentiment that they can no longer work with “friends” and relationships built over cocktails, dinner and time, but that they must choose the business option they can best defend.
To be that option:
1. Woo everyone. When 3,000 unhappy couples were interviewed, they said the reason they were unhappy is that they stopped communicating. I assure you they talked about who would drop the kids at school and who would take the dog to the kennel. What they didn’t talk about was the important stuff… (from a business perspective)…what matters most to your success/happiness? How can I help you beyond what is happening now?
2. Provide your best offer. They have to explain their value to their stakeholders. Though they are likely to say, “I really believe in them. They’ll do an amazing job for us” it will be much effective if you can help them do their jobs best. Help them. Here is the value we will receive from them. The list should be long.
3. Be innovative. Provide fresh, new ideas to help people who will be satisfied with less, be better than they thought they could be. Elevate them with what you know.
4. Own the friendship, not the business relationship. Be clear in what is most important and make that clear. I will not starve if my friend never chooses to hire me. In fact, if she does, I’ll work so hard to ensure she is thrilled that I may have to neglect customers who hire me on a regular basis. Our friendship is way too important to me. I’d rather just be friends, forget the charade that we can work together, and serve someone else – delighting them in the process and just enjoying that second glass of wine with a good friend.

One thing you Must do to Improve Sales

It is so easy to improve sales and it has nothing to do with the officially designated sales team.


It has to do with the receptionist, reservationist, greeter.


Here is how a luxury hotel “operator” answered my call today: (Think blah.) “He…llo… This is Name of Hotel. (Think nasal, annoyed and very, very tired). How may I assist you?”


By the time she finished her “greeting,” I felt like I needed a nap.


But it gets worse (which probably comes as no surprise to you!). I get transferred to reservations, ask for a date and rate, and that is exactly what I get. In fact, that is all I get. No attempt to up serve me, learn my reason for being in the area, try to help me to feel comfortable, smart, safe or confident deciding to book with the hotel.


This doesn’t mean the person answering the phone needs to act like my best friend. I already have one. But they do need to try to give me the best possible experience and the warmest welcome and make me feel appreciated for calling or visiting.


Call your PBX today and try not to freak out. Are you losing sales because the buyer feels that if this is representative of the hotel, they don’t want to be there? Are you losing sales because they don’t have the correct information or don’t know how to communicate it in a way that helps the buyer want to advance the sale? Are you losing sales because they don’t care or don’t know how to sell?


First impressions are lasting impressions.

prepare toilet paper

What to say after “hello” – Prospect for Success!

A few months ago I read an article about how awful it would be if the right to use mobile phones on airplanes became a reality. The author’s reasoning was this: Only old people still use a phone as a talking device and a lot of them are hard of hearing. Could there be a worse combo on an airplane than having to listen to a conversation about convalescence? 

Good for a laugh, I think the writer got it wrong. Though I admit that I have considered the phone an interruption to my day, I also know that there is nothing like a skype call when you can hear and see the other human being. It’s like breaking bread together, almost.  And a phone call, when you can hear the other person’s tone, inflection, pauses and they hear yours, and you can catch nuances that are impossible by email or text (even with a slew of emoticons) and mitigate conflict, and efficiently and effectively collaborate, well, it’s not just old people who should be using the phone. We all can benefit from picking up the phone and yes, it may require more time than crafting an email (and maybe not!) but live-speak is a business accelerator, not an interruption.
The biggest challenge is that we’re out of practice! We don’t know what to say when we get the chance to say it.
Your LinkedIn contact emails back, “Sure, call me Tuesday afternoon.” 
Or you phone a prospect who seemed interested when you met at the trade show/sales blitz/networking event and instead of getting him, you get his voice message. Or, you get him.
Now what?
What will you say? Will you fumble around and lose the opportunity to make your best impression? Will you be prepared to enable the best business conversation? What can you say that will connect/re-connect the two of you?
Here is the thing: Prepare! This isn’t brain surgery and the same situations (with a few small twists) occur again and again and again.
SpeakerSue’s advice:
  • Talk less.
  • Listen more.
  • Be prepared with thoughtful questions that encourage conversation about what matters most to them.
  • Don’t ever plan an elevator pitch.
  • Plan a conversation starter that focuses on your prospect not your product.
  • Enable the best business conversation and your voice message just may get returned.