Author Archives: Peter Coombs

The 4 Questions Your Prospect is Asking Themselves

Every prospect has a list of questions they use to filter out new salespeople. The more prepared you are to answer these questions, the more successful your sales calls will be.

Focus on making your prospect comfortable with you and your company.

1.   Who is this person, and do I want to do business with them?

Your prospect will give you no more than 10 seconds to make a positive first impression. They’ll judge you immediately on how you’re dressed and groomed, as well as your eye contact, facial expression, handshake and the initial greeting and introduction. All of these characteristics and behaviors will contribute to your prospect’s initial impression of you. If you manage it well, you’ve created an opportunity. If you miss something, you may have created an impossible roadblock for yourself.

2.  What do I know about this person’s company, and do I want to work with them?

Don’t make assumptions about what they do or don’t know about you. Early in the call, make the prospect comfortable by talking about your capabilities and successes with companies similar to theirs.

3.  What this company is selling – don’t I already have a source for it?

In all likelihood, the prospect already has a source for a product or service similar to yours. Identify how your product is different. Don’t be afraid to be explicit. Many times, prospects need you to connect the dots for them. Present them a solution, not a series of facts and features.

4.  What is this going to cost?

When you first meet a prospect, they are primarily focused on The Price, and to a much lesser degree, The Value. Your job is to reverse that focus. Demonstrate to them how your product will deliver value, even if it costs a bit more than the competition. Show them how this will improve their business.

When you go on your initial sales call with a new prospect, don’t be afraid of them. Realize what a great opportunity this is for you. But, also understand that this is a great opportunity for your prospect as well. They need solutions and you’ve got them.


The Best Advice I Read in 2011

We all like to put together a list of New Year’s resolutions. The problem is that we sometimes get so wrapped up in the list that we create something that is unattainable and overwhelming. Earlier this year, Fast Company magazine posted this blog with five great ideas for personal success.  I like it because it it is clear and concise. I’m going to try it.

“5 Things to Do Every Day for Success”   by Fast Company Expert Blogger Dayna Steele

1. Wake up early. For the next week, get up a half an hour earlier that you normally do–and get going. If you get a few more things done, then get up even earlier the next week. Early in the morning is a great time to get        work done because most of your associates have not started emailing, tweeting, or posting yet.

2. Read the headlines and watch the news. Not only should you know what is going on in the world, you will also be the first to recognize opportunities (if you followed #1) for you and your business–long before the competition has even had their first cup of coffee.

3. Send something to one person who can hire you or buy your product–something you promised to follow-up with, a quick email with a link to something relevant or a “Hey, just checking in to see how thing are going” email.

4. Touch base with an old friend or associate you haven’t talked to in ages. Ask how they are, what are they working on and ask or suggest how you might help. You’ll make their day.

5. Write a handwritten note to someone. Seriously, it is a lost art and makes quite an impression. There is always someone you can send a thank you note to–or you aren’t doing things correctly. A simple yet highly effective list. Try all five every weekday for a month. Then, tell me I’m right. If I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. When you finally wake up …

I love this list, and am trying my best to incorporate it.

It all makes sense.

It’s all practical and attainable.

Tell me how you do. I’ll do the same.

Social Media Guidelines

Many people are on the different forms of social media, but they’re sometimes not sure why. They have a group of followers, or connections, but don’t really know what to do with them. This is expecially true of LinkedIn. While Facebook is fun and interactive, LinkedIn seems more serious. That’s because it’s primarily focused on creating and maintaining a busness network, not a group of friends. Here are the three basic guidleines I suggest to my clients about using social media:

1. Be involved. Got in the game. Post about yourself. It’s okay, I promise.

2. Be interesting. All of us in your network want to learn about your successes and your new projects and your challenges. What books are you reading that you recommend? What we don’t want is a direct, or hard, sell. Social media is all about the soft sell. If you continue to have posts similar to this, “I have the best widget at the cheapest price. Call me to learn more!” you will see a drop-off in your connections.

3. Be generous. Social media is all about sharing. If you read an intersting article, post the link so we can read it as well. If you have had an interesting experience, share it with us. I went to Alaska last November to do training for the U. S. Coast Guard. While I was there, I took many pictures, some of which I posted. I was surprised (and delighted) by many positive comments I received, thanking me for the pictures. That’s how I learned about the value of sharing.

So, go forth and post. Just remember the three guidlelines: be involved, be interesting, and be generous.

All of us look forward to your posts.

LinkedIn: Sales Prospecting Workshop – March 24th

Are you on LinkedIn but you’re not sure why? Are you collecting contacts, but not using LinkedIn in any signicant or active way? On March 24th, I will be delivering a lively and informative workshop to show you a systematic approach to building and maintaining a successful customer network on LinkedIn.

You will learn how to:

* Build a LinkedIn Network – easily and strategically
* Capitalize on your LinkedIn connections
* Establish yourself as a subject matter expert
* Join LinkedIn groups that raise your professional profile

The workshop is sponsored by the Berkshire Chamber, and will be held at the beautiful Beacon Theatre in Pittsfield, MA. March 24, 8:30 – 10:00am.

If you are able, bring a charged laptop with you. You do not have to have a laptop to benefit from this program.

Investment: FREE for Berkshire Chamber members or $10 for non-members

To register, visit:

Questions and more info:

Your Customer’s First 30 Days

Your customer is no longer a prospect. They have placed an order with your company. A lot is riding on this initial order. And a lot is riding on what happens within the first 30 days of working with you. They are very impressionable Here are a few things to consider:

1. They don’t really know you. Yes, they got to know you a little before placing the order, but they are still a little anxious. Perfect opportunity to make them feel comfortable.

2. They don’t know how and when you are going to be in touch with them. Tell them. Reassure them that you will be reaching out to them. Give them a schedule.

3. They don’t want to annoy with dumb questions. Another great opportunity to reach out, after aniticipating what questions and concerns they might have.

4. They don’t know anyone but you. Introduce your team, not only by name and function, but how they will help them. Have your team members call and introduce themselves.

5. They don’t feel that you know their team. Take it upon yourself to learn all about their team. Team member’s names, functions, history with the company, etc.

6. They don’t think you know enough about their customers. Suggest that you spend a day visiting their location, learning everything you can about their customers. Listen in on customer calls, go on customer sales calls, interview key team members, etc.

7. They don’t know what they don’t know. Set up a regular telephone call once a week for the first month where they can ask any question and you can bring up ideas and suggestions.

Don’t let them wander. Anticipate their questions. Put yourself in their shoes.  Listen to their concerns, and learn and adapt for your next new customer.

Keep this new customer close by. You don’t want to lose them because you weren’t paying attention.

Shaking Hands: Please, No More Dead Fish!

I attend a lot of business and social events, and meet a lot of people.  I am amazed at how differently people will shake my hand. Some people come across as confident or down-to-earth. They show a certain amount of warmth in their handshakes. But there are other handshakes that are just terrible, and really undermine the person’s credibility. Let’s take a look at some I regularly encounter:

1. The Dead Fish. No explanation needed. This may be the worst of the lot.

2. The Vise Grip. Uh-oh. Virility issues.

3. The Pump. Up and down, and up and down. Yikes! Let go!

4. The Two-fister. They’re not happy with using just one of their hands. They wrap both of their hands around your hand. Look out. Major control-needs are on display here. Check to make sure you still have your watch.

5. The Two-fister – variation. They shake your hand with their right hand, and grasp your forearm with their left. Serious control issues are lurking here.

6. The Dainty Fingers. Instead of wrapping their hand around yours, they wrap around your fingers. Very 17th century France.

So, you want a firm, but not overbearing handshake. Shake their entire hand, not just their fingers. And, be sure to make eye contact when shaking hands.  Let them look into your eyes to see your sincerity and confidence.

Getting Your Customers to Love You

Love. Who knew it was such a successful business strategy?

What sort of relationship do you have with your customers? Is it a business relationship, where you are prompt, effecient and accurate? That’s not enough, these days. It’s got to be more of a personal relationship, where you show that you care about them as well as their business. Do you know their birthday? Do you know the names of their kids? Do you send them handwritten thank you cards? Simple stuff, right? Only if you do it.

Customer loyalty today is very fragile. It’s easy for customers to migrate from one vendor to another. Except if they love you. Then, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for them to even think about “dating” a company besides yours. You need to tell them how much they mean to you, and how much you like working with them. It’s not difficult, and it only takes a few seconds to say it or write it. The good news is, in all probabality, your compeition is not doing any of this. They are taking their customers for granted, and those customers know it. It won’t take much effort on your part to steal these customers away from your competition. Once they love you, they will remain loyal.

Get going. Start showing your customers how much you love them. They’ll reciprocate in no time.

Price resistance? Bring it on

How do you see yourself when explaining your price to a customer? How do you react when they say it’s too expensive? For many of us, it’ can be an unpleasant feeling. A sense of dread. Or, sometimes we get a little defensive. “How dare you question how much I am charging you for this. Can’t you see that it’s worth it?” We might feel better, but we’ve probably blown the sale. Let’s try recalibrating, and focusing on the process.

When a customer resists our price, they are telling us that we haven’t convinced them of the value of our product or service. They are giving us another chance. “C’mon. Try again. Convince me.”

They are almost ready to buy. They like it, they just want to be convinced. I know that when a customer tells me that my price is too high, I am on my way to getting a sale. “It sounds like price is the only thing we need to discuss. Was there anything else besides price getting in the way of the sale?” They rarely bring up anything else. So now I know that if I can work out the price, I have a sale. But I don’t want to give it away. So first I start by revisiting the value of my service.  I show them how they will benefit from hiring me. I will also ask them about their budget. After all, I have given them my price, they should be willing to share their budget, and mostly they do. If it’s clear that they cannot pay my asking price, I’ll start scaling back my services to match their budget.

Dealing with a customer’s price resistance doesn’t have to be scary. Remember, what they are really telling us is that we haven’t sold them yet. So, let’s make them happy, and sell them our product or service.

Referrals are your best friend

Repeat customers are invaluable. They pay the bills, and keep you in business. But referrals are how you expand your business. Referrals are the lifeblood of your business, letting you survive and, in some cases, thrive. Everyone agrees on the importance of referrals. However, most salespeople rarely ask for referrals, even from their most loyal customers. “I don’t want to be a pushy salesperson.” Good. I don’t want you to be pushy either. I just want you to be successful.

Here are a few suggestions about getting referrals. First, ask your customer to refer you to a specific person. This helps focus your customer. They don’t have to think about it, they can just act on it. If you have a good working relationship with them, they won’t hesitate in referring you. Second, ask your customer to contact the referral for you, giving them your name. You are doing this to make sure they take your call. Third, after you contact the referral, loop back to your customer and tell them what happened, especially if you got business from the referral. If they have been part of you getting business, they will love hearing about it. Allow your customers to celebrate in your success.

Don’t  be afraid to ask for referrals. It’s a normal part of doing business.  If you’ve done a good job for a customer, they will be glad to recommend you.