Author Archives: Peter Coombs

Stop Selling Price

“My customers will only buy if I lower my prices.”

Really? Are you sure? I hear this frequently from participants in my training workshops, and it always leads to a healthy conversation about whether they are selling price or value. It also leads to a conversation about assumptions the salesperson might be making about what the customer is able to pay, as opposed to what they want to pay.

I started my training business in 1987. One of my first assignments was to help a VP of Sales plan her first national sales meeting. I met with her on a Friday, where she outlined the project, and asked me to give her a price on Monday. I agonized over what to charge her. Back and forth, up and down. I finally settled on a price. When we spoke that Monday, she asked me what the price was. I told her, and she said “Okay.” I knew right away I had undercharged her. I wasn’t confident enough in the value I would bring her. Instead, I was selling price. That was a very valuable lesson for me, one that I never forgot.

Sales Managers: It’s Okay to Coach Your Salespeople


Selling is a challenging endeavor. And if I am a sales manager,  responsible for a group of salespeople, it gets even more challenging.  I am pulled in a lot of directions. I have multiple priorities. I have to adapt to the personalities of my people. I have to keep the peace. All of that and more. My one main responsibility as a sales managers is to help my people perform. Coaching should be one of my strongest skills. However, research from the EcSELL Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska, shows that almost 90% of Sales Reps want their Sales Manager to have strong coaching skills, but only about 6%  of the reps believe their managers possess those strong skills. Why? What;s causing this gap?

First, it’s easy for a sales manager to get bogged down with the administrative minutiae that comes with the job. Sometimes, they hide in it. Second, it’s a question of finding the time that both you and your people can meet 0ne-on-one. Third, and I think most important, some managers are afraid of coaching. They see it as a difficult task they would rather not have to do. They rationalize this by thinking “I hired strong salespoeple. They should be able to make it on their own.” This is faulty thinking. Each of us can benefit from coaching. Learning new approaches, gaining insights, establishing account strategies, etc.

Relax. Take a deep breath. You can do this. It’s just a conversation to help someone else. It’s simpler than you think. And don’t forget, your reps want you to be good at this. The more you coach your people, the less they will need it. You and they will develop your own personal short hand, alloowing you and your people to burn through a productive coaching session in no time.

Quit Using the 30-second Elevator Speech!

Years ago, when I was first starting out in sales, I was taught that I needed to have a 30-second elevator speech.  Not just me.  Everybody was taught this. It’s still drilled into salespeople: “Have a clever and concise way of describing you and your business.”   The 30-second speech was originally created in case we suddenly found ourselves in an elevator with our CEO. We would be able to say in 30 seconds who we are, what we do, and what successes we are having. That idea evolved, and it is now a mainstay of salespeople everywhere. It’s a great idea that has gone way off-track, and has become counter-productive.

In today’s business environment, the 30-second speech is a gold standard in networking. We are expected to have at least one, if not many, 30-second speeches to deliver at a moment’s notice at a networking or business event. So, what’s the issue? Simple. These speeches have evolved into contrived communication about who we are and what we do. Most of these are over-prepared, over-rehearsed speeches that miss the target. They don’t connect with the audience. Somewhere along the way, we got so focused on being clever with our words that we forgot we were speaking with a person. The focus of the 30-second speech was us, and not the person we were meeting for the first time.

The next time you go to a networking event, pay attention to how people introduce themselves to you. Do they sound sincere, thoughtful, attentive, interesting? Does what they say encourage you to listen, or do you want to walk away?  I hear a lot of bad 30-second speeches, and I feel sorry for these folks, because I know they have put a lot of time and thought into how they present themselves. But the speeches don’t help people connect. In fact, many times, it’s the opposite. They push people away from us.

We need to be clear and concise in describing who we are, what we do, and how we help others be successful. But we can and must do this in an approachable, conversational way.

So, let’s retire the elevator speech, and stop sounding mechanical. Let’s get rid of the “I solve problems that people didn’t even know they had,” type of speech. It’s time to re-connect with people. Yes, we still have to be compelling and passionate about who we are and what we do.  We just need to do it in a way that is conversational, not robotic.

5 Selling Mistakes We Can Avoid

1.  We shouldn’t expect prospects to buy from us if we aren’t proud of what we are selling. We need to speak about our product or service with emotion, letting prospects and customers know that we are “excited,” “passionate,” and “thrilled”‘ about what we sell.

2.  We shouldn’t expect to get business if we don’t ask for it. It’s the number one reason we don’t get business. Part of this is sales call reluctance, or not wanting to be in sales. Another reason is when the salesperson is convinced the prospect wants to buy and waits for them to say so.

3. We shouldn’t expect our business to grow if we don’t generate and pursue leads. Whether we call it the funnel or the pipeline, we need to be  constantly filling it with new prospects. All of us have had that scary experience of suddenly realizing that our current business is about to run out, and we have nothing in the pipeline.

4. We shouldn’t expect our customers to stay loyal if we don’t follow up. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But we lose a lot of business by not doing what we promised.

5. We shouldn’t expect our prospects to accept our prices if we can’t explain them. We need to be totally comfortable with the price and value of what we sell.

How to Coach Your Customers

Everyone in sales dreads hearing the following from a customer: “I’ll review this with my boss. I know he’ll go ahead and place an order.” We dread it because we know the sale is very likely going to die. The good intentions of your contact are just not enough. When the boss says “This is very expensive” your contact will not have enough information to overcome this objection.

The best solution is for you to present it to the boss, but this usually won’t happen. Senior people are insulated deep within their organizations and don’t have the time or desire to meet with you. They rely on others for information.

So, back to your initial contact. It’s time to make them into one of your salespeople.

  1. Start by understanding your contact’s mind-set. They are certain that if they merely tell the boss to buy it, he will jump at the chance. Mostly, this isn’t the case.
  2. Urge your contact to invest a few minutes with you, learning key selling points about your product. Do this carefully. Remember, they think they know all of this already.
  3. Get agreement from the contact that your product would be beneficial to their company. Review the benefits with them. Recommend that they write them down, and have them handy when they meet with the boss “just in case.”
  4. Go over what to say in case the boss raises price objections. Engage your contact in this discussion; don’t just direct them.
  5. Compare your product with what they are currently using. Is it faster, sharper, more accurate, longer-lasting, etc.? Have your contact write these comparisons down as well.

There’s no guarantee that coaching your contact will lead to an order. However, if you don’t coach them, you definitely reduce your probability of success and your sales rate.

Are You Selling the Way Your Customers Prefer to Buy?

Not all customers are the same. I learned that lesson years ago when I was just beginning to sell. Actually, I didn’t learn it right away. I understood the concept intellectually, but it was several years before I learned it on a practical level.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? The trick is to internalize it so that it becomes second nature. It is all about adapting to other people’s preferences. Many times, this is referred to as adapting to a person’s “style.” This ability to adapt is the sign of a skilled, professional salesperson.

Here are some examples of customer styles:

  • RESULTS:  This customer wants it now. They value taking action, and welcome risks and challenges.
  • RELATIONSHIPS:  This customer is friendly and enthusiastic and values learning about you.
  • HARMONY:  This customer likes stability, process, and knowing how something is going to work.
  • ACCURACY:  This customer wants it done precisely. They like evidence and testimonials.

The most successful salespeople are those who can identify another person’s style, and then adapt to it. In effect, they are speaking the other person’s language. When you are selling, it is always about adapting to the customer. It is never about waiting for them to adapt to you.

Are You a Reluctant Salesperson?

A reluctant salesperson. It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?  We have this image of assertive men and women, boldly going to visit prospects and customers.  Asking strong, insightful questions, and listening closely to the answers.  But think back on your experiences as a customer.  How many times have you stood in a store waiting to be helped, when you can see salespeople gathered and chatting among themselves?

This has happened to me many times, and I always chalked it up to rude or indifferent attitudes of the salespeople. Then I came across some startling research from Dallas-based Behavioral Sciences Research Press:

  • The authors examined the customer engagement behavior of 1,160 retail salespeople in the U.S. The researchers investigated how many times the retail salespeople initiated conversation with “walk-in” prospective buyers during one work week. Results? Less than 44% of the salespeople engaged prospective walk-in customers.
  • They also recently studied 199,000 salespeople scattered across companies, industries and sales settings, researching salespeople who don’t want to talk to anyone. Results? 19.6% of currently employed salesmen and 16.6% of saleswomen say they are uncomfortable starting conversations with people they don’t know. Remember, these are people in sales.

At least now I can understand, if not accept, the mistreatment I am receiving.  There is a real opportunity here for anyone in sales.  Engage your prospects and customers in conversation. It sounds easy and obvious, but many of your competitors are not doing it.

So go ahead. Try it. Start up a conversation with a new customer.  Speak with passion about what you sell.  I think you’ll be pleased and surprised with the results.

Great, You Got the Sales Appointment. Now What?

Getting an appointment with a prospect is a big deal. It can be an anxiety-producing, nervous-making process. But, you got the appointment, so congratulate yourself on a job well done! Now, it’s time to plan your sales call.

First, let’s acknowledge that you are probably a little bit nervous about meeting this person. Just keep in mind, the prospect said yes to meeting you because of something you said or something you offer. It’s important to remember that you are welcome. This should help a little bit with your nerves.

Next, learn all you can about the prospect and their company. Examine their business.  Learn about their customers and their competitors.  What are their recent business successes and challenges?

Next, be clear what you want to accomplish in this meeting. Write it down and have it clearly in mind when you are with your prospect.

Lastly, how will your product or service help your prospect? Will it make them more profitable? More efficient? More productive? The answers to these questions are the foundation of your presentation to your prospect.