Articles providing practical, field-tested advice to sales professionals.

Location: Houston, Texas, United States

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Part 1

When using the telephone to set an appointment or introduce yourself or your product, some customers or prospects will encourage you to “drop in anytime”. They will say, “You don’t need an appointment. However, the professional sales person will accept this statement as an expression of friendship, but will never accept the suggestion. Making an appointment, even with a close friend, signifies that you respect his or her busy work schedule and that you, too, have many things to do and you cannot afford wasted time. The appointment also serves to emphasize the importance of your call. If you do not communicate that you are important, that your call is important and that what you want to say is important, why should your prospect or customer think it is?

The telephone represents a network of sales helpers available to save you time. Learn to use it well and it will help you increase your sales proficiency. The telephone is used efficiently by some sales people, but abused by others. The difference is that if you are selling appointments over the phone, you are using it. If you are trying to sell your product or service, you are very likely abusing it. You may want to sell your product or service by phone periodically, but to establish a sales relationship for an extended period of time requires ongoing personal contact.

Telephone Techniques….Your Professional Plus

Preparation for setting the appointment is just as important as preparing for the presentation itself. More commonly used methods of setting an appointment include the telephone, calling on the prospect in person, being introduced by a third party, mail or email.

Plan, Practice and Phone

Telephoning a prospect for an appointment is the most frequently used method. But, before you make the call, PREPARE! Your objective is to secure an appointment, not to make the sales presentation on the telephone. So, you must talk in terms of the decision-maker’s interests. Lead with a benefit; convince the prospect that it would be worthwhile for them to see you. The following is an example of this approach.

Example: Hello. Mr. Garret. This is Alice McKloskey. Our mutual friend, Steve Worthy, suggested that I call you. I am a graduating senior at State University. Mr. Worthy thought you might appreciate knowing about the national sales contest I won representing our Excellence in Professional Selling. This contest was designed for sales candidates who have shown some evidence in sales success. The championship sales presentation that I presented at the national competition took only eight minutes. Mr. Worthy thought it might be mutually rewarding (benefit) if we could meet and visit. When would be a good time for you? Additional points for your telephone call are shown below.
  • Be prepared with the prospect or customer’s name and how to pronounce it. Have it written down in front of you. Have your sales tools organized and available.
  • Out-listen your prospect and hang up last.
  • Stand while talking. (Note that professional singers or speakers perform while standing.)
  • Visualize your listener. For the extra personal contact, you should see him or her mentally as you talk.
  • Sell appointments by phone so you can sell your product or service in person.

The Gatekeepers:

Receptionists, executive assistants and secretaries deserve special consideration as you plan your telephone calls. These people can be your friends and allies if you win their good will.
Gatekeepers ¾ referring to receptionists, executive assistants and secretaries ¾ are in a position to help you or hurt you. It is always in your best interest to have them for you instead of against you. These gatekeepers are in a professional position to influence their boss ¾ your prospect or customer. Their boss may know them better than he or she knows you, and may take them into their confidence and ask their opinions on certain aspects of the business. Treat them as a part of the “buying team”. This well help you avoid the attitude of “they only work here and answer the phones; they aren’t really important”.
When you call a customer or prospect for an appointment or for information, always address the receptionist or secretary on the other end of the telephone by name. If you don’t have the name, be friendly, but not too friendly or pushy. Whether you know the person or not, be gracious. A word of warning: don’t run the risk of offending the person on the other end of the telephone by using a pet name. One of the chief complaints of female receptionists and secretaries about salespeople (either male or female) is that they are much too free with terms such as “Honey”, “Doll” or “Babe”.

Special panels of top-paid secretaries and receptionists have appeared before groups at conferences and seminars of sales people who call on their companies. High on their list of dislikes is the sales person who tries to be too familiar in language and behavior. Respect their position and their personality. Remember, they may have the power to make or break your sale!

Personal Identification:

At the beginning of the call, always identify yourself and your company, speaking slowly, clearly and confidently. When you give your name over the phone, it is a good practice to give your first name and then count silently “1,2,3” before stating your last name. This pause of approximately one second between your first and last name makes it easier for your listener to understand and remember your name. This is also a good practice when you introduce yourself in person. If you have an unusual name, offer the spelling of it after pronouncing it.
Show consideration for the secretary or associate’s time and for the decision maker’s time. He or she will appreciate your asking. “Is it convenient for Mr. Allen to talk with me now?” You may be advised that you should call back later or ask your prospect to call you. The receptionist is on the scene and knows the situation. He or she may advise you as to when it would be convenient for you to call again. If you leave your phone number, please say it slowly and distinctly so the person on the other end of the telephone will be able to write it down as you say it.

State your Reason for Requesting an Appointment:

When you call a prospect, have a good reason, plus a potential benefit for wanting an appointment. Be professional and have a specific purpose. For example: “If we could get together, you might appreciate seeing a cost-per-foot analysis we have just completed on your last installation. I think it may suggest some new ideas on product selection.” You have to tell your listener that there is a potential benefit for him or her to make an appointment to see you soon to discuss the benefit.
Inquire and Respect your Customer’s Policies and Procedures.
Consider and respect your customer’s company policies and procedures. If your prospect wants to discuss some point regarding a past presentation because this is their standard procedure, offer to be present at that meeting to answer questions. Or offer to be present, along with someone else from your company who is more qualified to answer questions. Try not to show irritation at any of their company procedures. Obviously, they think they are important or they wouldn’t use them.

Be Courteous and be Prepared.

Conduct yourself on the phone courteously and chances are that you will be accepted and treated courteously as a professional. Taking time ahead of your phone call to prepare properly can pay big dividends and make you more comfortable and relaxed. Again, try to sell interviews and appointments, not products and services over the telephone. The following formula may help make it as simple as ABC to get more interviews from your telephone calls.
Attention (A) ¾ Get your customer to respond favorably by asking a “yes-getting” question or by making a statement with which he or she can readily agree. For example: “Good morning, Mr. Allen. This is Bob Bradford. Did you receive the information on A-1 Widgets which I sent to you last week?”
Business (B) ¾ Tell your listener why you are calling. State your business briefly. “A new laboratory study has just been completed which I believe provides just what you are looking for. I thought you might appreciate knowing exactly how it can help you.”
Commitment ( C ) – Ask for a definite appointment at a specific time and day.

Part 2 to be posted on May 31, 2006

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Secrets of King Solomon's Mind

Let the wisest man who ever lived help you get what you always wanted!

Table of Contents:
Introduction: A Search for the Treasures of King Solomon's Mind
Chapter One:
The First Pillar - Trust

Chapter Two:
The Second Pillar - Setting Your Course

Chapter Three:
The Third Pillar - Hearing the Voice

Chapter Four:
The Fourth Pillar - Materialism: The Reality and the Illusion

Chapter Five:
The Fifth Pillar - He Who Would Lead

Chapter Six:
The Sixth Pillar: - Choices

Chapter Seven:
The Seventh Pillar - The Song of the Heart


Persons of Inspiration Mentioned in This Book

Technical Details E-Book: Illustrated, 100 pages. Copyright 2005 by Carl G. Stevens, generated and distributed by ArcAetos.

Technical Details CD's: 2 CD set, narrated by Mr. Jim Parker. Copyright 2005 by Carl G. Stevens, generated and distributed by ArcAetos.

E-Book Cost: $9.95 CD's Cost: $14.95

To order, click here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Winning Combination (Part Two)

America has developed a high standard of living by creating want. Advertising is the preselling, but selling is what makes the wheels of progress go around. How sad, then, that company owners and managers pay so little attention to the part of their business that is most responsible for bringing in profit?
It is so easy to become preoccupied with the day-to-day “processing” of business that we have little time or energy left for “creating” more business. As one company owner commented, “If we don’t get to selling, we’re going to be worrying more and more about less and less.”

The truth is we don’t sell “services” and “supplies”… WE SELL PEOPLE who buy “service” and “supplies”.

Clearly, our objective must be to teach salespeople the arts of conviction and motivation so thoroughly that thy know them well enough not only to write them. But also to be able to use them in their day-to-day selling. Self-confidence comes from knowing specifically what to do and exactly how to do it.

The soul of professional salesmanship is knowledge, skill and style!

The product knowledge and people knowledge to know what to do to convince the prospect that they are “justified” in acting now… and skill in how to help the prospect motivate themselves to “Want” the results of your recommendation. Finally, the soul to make it all so natural and mutually rewarding… that the experience engraves your name upon their memory as a caring and competent professional!

The serious sales practionioners need what all the recognized professions such as medicine, law, engineering and architecture have – an accumulated and documented body of knowledge, a generic language and a structured approach to achieve their objectives.

If you are not completely happy with your current sales and earnings, this may be a good time to invest in yourself by improving your knowledge and skill levels in the art of selling.

If you make your living selling reprographics, when your feet hit the floor this morning you were in a real sense unemployed. If you are paid by salary – you can deny this by pointing to your salary check, but how long would that salary be forthcoming if you were unable to produce sales?

Your time that earns you money is the time you spend selling in the presence of a qualified prospect. “It’s not telling ‘em, but selling ‘em that gets results… and there is a big difference!”

Salespeople need help in acquiring these and sales managers need help in helping them.

“Selection and training of field sales managers has become one of the most acute problems facing top management.” - Harvard Business Review

  1. Over half of the sales managers surveyed had never read a job description of what they were supposed to do.
  2. 78% of these sales managers were dissatisfied with their training or had never received any specific training to equip them for their roles as sales managers.
  3. Only 1 out of every 44 companies surveyed had any kind of company sponsored sales manager’s training program. – American Management Association.

The degree of your people’s sales excellence is optional. “Continuing Education is the Wave of the Future” according to Dean Miller of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Administration.

What does “continuing education” cost? If it “costs”, we shouldn’t do it. If it is a good investment that can affect our bottom line favorably, we should have already done it. Right?

Today’s sales professionals want the self-confidence that comes from knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. What they really want to learn is how to structure a complete professional sales presentation in the proper psychological sequence to achieve maximum motivation. Why aren’t we giving them what they want?

Have you ever wondered what the ideal state-of-the-art professionally structured sales presentation of your product to your prospect would sound like?

If, indeed you are serious about improving “the most important three feet in your business” this may be a good time to invest in your differential advantage your people!

What will happen to that “profit picture” if you don’t fully optimize the potential of the most important three feet in your business? If you do, what can happen to your bottom line… your dreams?

Isn’t it great… you DO have a choice! You now have a viable alternative thanks to your IRA Education Committee, the IRA Board of Directors, selected sales professionals and sales managers from across the US and Canada, and in cooperation with Carl Stevens and Associates… you have the professional tools to improve your sales and profits, along with proven principles with industry specific applications that add up to a custom-designed state-of-the-art professional Sales Guide and Coach’s Guide. These guidelines help you make more sales, earn more money and have more fun doing it! IF you choose to do nothing – that is a choice. If you choose to do something – the results could be rewarding. Which will you choose, now!

Friday, June 24, 2005

*************** QUOTE OF THE WEEK ******************
"Aim for success, not perfection.
Never give up your right to be wrong,
because then you will lose the ability to learn new things
and move forward with your life."
- Dr. David M. Burns

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Winning Combination (Part One)

What do you think is the most important 3 feet in your company? Is it the distance between you and your computer… your desk… your banker? Let’s think about it.

Maybe these quotes will give you some clues:

  • Powerful men know the secrets of persuasion: that is, they know how to sell… Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca believes that sales technique is the key to advancement for anyone in business.
  • Harvard MBA teaches that marketing is important, but selling is where the rubber meets the road… Thomas Watson, Jr., former CEO of IBM said the key to the company’s growth was not being the first in a given technology, but in knowing how to sell it.
  • The way American companies train the people who work for them is a national disgrace,” Tom Peters – Co-author of In Search of Excellence and Thriving on Chaos continues, “only 30% of them given their sales forces any training whatsoever. Sales are where the money comes from.”
  • W. Clement Stone, founder of SUCCESS magazine says, “Most sales are made because of the way the salesman, not the prospect, thinks and acts.”prospect and your salesperson.”
  • Marshall Field, the department store entrepreneur, said, “The only problem with advertising is that it misses the last three feet, the most important yard in the yard business, the distance between your This has been referred to as “The most neglected, most misunderstood, and most important three feet in your business.”
A football analogy: a back-breaking, time-consuming, super effort can be made to move the ball 99 yards down the field, but you still have three more feet to the goal line. And all the effort and all the time counts for absolutely nothing unless you can cover the last three feet!


“If nobody sells anything something bad happens… Nothing!” This sign is on the door of a professor of Economics at Purdue University.

Everything is “outgo”, expense until something is sold to get “income”, sales, and hopefully, profits.

The name of the game is to have more “income” than “outgo” and that spells profits. It is trite but still true - you can’t have a profit without a sale.

AS YOU REVIEW YOUR RECENT RESULTS AT “THE LAST 3 FEET”… If you are not completely happy with your current sales and profits… consider these facts:

STATE OF THE ART: “80% of the business is done by 20% of the salesmen.” - Sales & Marketing Executive International.

  • IMPROPER PREPARATION: A national survey discovered less than 5% of salespeople had decided upon a selling career while they were in high school. – Carl Stevens & Associates.
  • POOR SELECTION: Six out of ten salespeople should not be selling at all, regardless of their training, because they do not have the innate characteristics it takes. Journal of Psychology.
  • ECONOMIC LOSS: “90% of all the work salesmen put in is worthless – only 10% of what they do earns money for them. Nine-tenths of all their efforts is lost motion – utterly wasted.” - Prentice Hall, Inc. Survey: 4,000 salespeople.

If, indeed, these things are true, maybe it would pay us to learn more about selling?


Let’s play the what if game, ok? What if… all the sales producers in your company brought in as many premium dollars as your best sales producer… what would happen to your total gross sales $_____________? Your net profit $______________? What would these extra dollars do to help improve your agency/company _____________________?

What are those top 20%… the super-producers doing that produces their superior results and how are they doing it?

Again, “what if”… we researched those top 20% to determine their “success secrets”… exactly why and how are they selling so well? Suppose we did interviews over say 8 to 10 years and asked several thousand of them to share their methodology. Next, suppose we take this information and consult with 4 or 5 professional learning theorists as to how our research information can be translated/converted into a teaching curriculum so our findings can be shared with agents who want to improve their sales productivity. Suppose we were to invest a healthy budget to develop a body of knowledge that could teach us how to use their proven sales procedures. Then we could determine the effectiveness of our research and development by testing it.

ALL OF THE ABOVE WAS DONE. Nine and half years of research, $100,000 invested in curriculum development with 5 learning theorists, the test involved property and casualty agents from 13 states with an average of 14 years sales experience. These sales professionals studied a 171 page illustrated sales manual that had been custom-designed for their industry. The executive secretary of the sponsoring trade association wrote – “The results are in and the average sales increase for those attending was a whopping 144% the first ninety days!”

A survey of several thousand salespeople found that their most frequent needs are:

  1. Specific methods for improving sales – not what to do, but how to do it.
  2. A complete understanding of the principles and techniques of salesmanship – and how to apply them in day-to-day selling.
  3. Training in capsule and digest form – readable, educational material that is short, explanatory, illustrated and believable.

Friday, June 17, 2005

********** QUOTE OF THE WEEK **********
"Personality can open doors,
but only character can keep them open."
- Elmer G. Letterman

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Developing & Measuring - Salespeople & Management (Part 2)

Five criteria, in broad terms, should dominate our thinking at this point. Certainly, one must be measured against the numeric standards. They must also hear from their boss how their personal development is coming along. Their product knowledge presentation skills must be continually assessed, and their time and territory management skills must be formally reviewed. Lastly, an often overlooked criteria is customer service. Clients served must not be unhappy with either the company or the company’s representative.

To be fair, opportunity assessments must be evaluated. Sometimes, the market moves and changes and even the best salesperson needs “ripe” territory. Market studies and their associated analysis provide a foundation for evaluation. Geographic analysis and client mix are also important to aid in understand not only the salesperson but also the opportunities, the clients, and any unusual territory characteristics that may need to be considered when formal evaluations are being conducted.

So many times, business owners and sales managers really do not fully evaluate the things that matte to their businesses. Experience has taught us that one must know not only what the individual seller sold but they must also know what was lost. It is essential to know whether the territory is growing or declining. Competitive losses must be documented and discussed. Distinctions must be made between what is being sold to new customers and what is being added to the existing service base. So, all effective measurement systems monitor growth, new account numbers and dollars, existing account volume and service enhancement effectiveness, new market penetrations as directed by strategy, and relationship nurturing.

In its simplest form, the evaluator must ask, “Is this salesperson growing as an individual? Do they have the drive and determination it takes to learn the process of effective selling? Is constructive correction willingly sought and freely acted upon? How effectively do they manage their time and territory and how much of your time do they require? Is the significant investment in salary, sales education, coaching and evaluation reaping reasonable rewards both for the individual and the company within a respectable period of time?” With these questions answered, the reviewer can move on to asking the questions that matter more to the company than they do to the individual.

When our customers found where they were thought to be, did they buy what they were intended to buy, and am I finding an ever-growing number of clients who want more of what I sell at the price I’ve agreed to sell it?

All businesses must monitor their effectiveness in the marketplace. Experience has taught that salespeople thrive in an environment that clearly states what is expected of the salesforce in total, specifically what each person’s role in the organization is, and lays out from the start the specific criteria to which they will be held accountable.

A company that is growing its territories, its customer base, expanding its services, developing new products, and winning new accounts regularly, invariably have a “behind the scenes” measurement system that is consistent with the points previously made in this article.

Lastly, what formal documents are created when professional men and women meet to formally evaluate performance? Elaborate appraisal forms and statistical spreadsheets seem to be the most prevalent. The tool is not so important as is the fact that periodic “meetings of the minds” occur. Fundamentally stated, a company can afford to keep its salesforce only so long as they achieve their pre-stated goals.

Being an effective salesperson in today’s competitive world is a combination of constantly refining personal skills and behaviors accompanied by a management that genuinely cares about the hiring, coaching, and retention of individuals who are capable of responding to direction and guidance both willingly and eagerly. Then, working together in service to their markets and customers, they achieve and document the fact that they achieved what it was they set out to do.

Those who fall short, are given ample opportunity to improve. Those who fail at selling go on to something more suitable to their talents. Those who succeed enjoy the fruits of their labors.

In closing, effective salespeople drive themselves! They make evaluation time a time for reflection, but they are constantly self-evaluating and self-improving.

Great sales managers create environments where talented people not only survive – they thrive.

Effective business planners create plans and programs that are so measurable and specific that sales managers can understand them and salespeople can achieve them. All the while, at all levels of the organization, each individual is constantly setting their sights on even loftier goals for next time.

The individual who sells should constantly be seeking insight into both themselves, their company, and their customers. Measuring has many forms. What is most important is that the people who do the work feel god about what they do in service to others. One of the greatest joys of management is seeing someone you trained and coached achieve individual success. Nothing is sweeter than knowing that you were fair, firm, specific, and successful in developing, measuring and evaluating sales performance. The management of the total sales function can be an exciting and rewarding experience!