Category Archives: Blog

Sales Lessons Learned from Godiva Chocolatier

Some clients are more fun than others. That was true for me with Godiva Chocolatier. I worked with them for six years, delivering countless workshops and talks on sales and customer service. They were a great client. Fun, open to new ideas, and willing to try different approaches. Plus, it was a fun product. I know they learned from me, because they told me so and because I witnessed it in their stores. But I also learned from them. Here are a few of my learnings:

1. Focus on the value. You aren’t selling price if you have a super-premium product. Don’t let customers get you into a price comparison with a lesser-grade product. There are reasons you cost more. Tell your customers these reasons.

2. Engage. Engage. Engage. Don’t hide behind that counter. Get out and meet your customers face-to-face. Shake their hands. Ask them great questions. Welcome them back. Compliment them on something they’re wearing. Make them feel like this is “their” store.

3. Hire the best. Compete by having enthusiastic and energetic salespeople. Hire them for their interpersonal skills. You can always train them in the product and the systems later. Godiva frequently recruited salespeople from cosmetic companies. They were high energy, willing to work with the public, and not afraid to go after a sale. Perfect.

4. Be comfortable selling something you can’t afford. One of the first assignments I had was analyzing why some stores were under-performing. Turned out that several of these stores had managers who couldn’t explain the higher price of Godiva to their customers. Some serious coaching took place, and most of those managers found religion, and sales went back up.

5. Be super-proud of what you sell. The most successful salespeople at Godiva were also the proudest. They loved everything about the product and the company. They knew everything about how the product was made and how it was packaged. They knew the history of the company. They knew everything possible about the ingredients in each piece.  These salespeople wanted their customers to be as passionate about the product as they were.

They took their business seriously, but they never forgot that they were selling a wonderful experience.

Do You Have Customers from Mars?

Some customers make me think they are from a distant planet. They’re the ones that ask me the bizarro questions that I can’t even begin to understand, let alone answer.  They ask questions that begin with “I know this is a crazy, but…” or “You’re going to think I’m nuts for asking you this, but…”  or, my personal favorite, “This has probably never happened before, but…”

I kind of like these visitors from another galaxy.  I accept them and their alien ways. It keeps me on my toes. I have to listen really closely, trying to make sense out of their questions and comments. I keep telling myself that somewhere in this mish-mash of words there is something of value. Nine times out of ten, there is. I have to stay patient, just like when dealing with customers from Earth. And I have to focus and pay attention to them and their thoughts, no matter how Martian it might sound.

The good news is, if I listen, and if I remain patient, and if I pay attention, they will buy from me, just like here on Earth. 

So, here’s to the customers from other worlds. May they continue supporting me, and challenging me with their questions and comments.

I Cannot Make a Sales Call at 8:00AM

I cannot make a sales call at 8:00AM. It’s too early. My prospects are probably still commuting. I’m better off waiting for them to get to their offices and settle in. I don’t want to irritate them at such an early hour. Who would want to start their day listening to a sales pitch? No, I’m better off waiting a while.

I cannot make a sales call at 10:00AM. I mean, really.  They need some time to get a cup of coffee, stretch their legs, and chat with their co-workers. I would only be annoying them if I called now. Sales call? It’ll have to wait just a little bit longer.

I cannot make a sales call at 11:30AM. Way too close to lunch. No one likes to be called when they’re eating. It’s rude, don’t you think? I wouldn’t like it if a salesperson called me during my lunch break, and I would probably never buy anything from that salesperson. No, I’m not going to risk losing a prospect because I didn’t keep an eye on the clock. Making sales calls at 11:30AM is out of the question. It will wait until after lunch.

I cannot make a sales call at 1:00PM. My prospects are probably just back from lunch, and they need time to get settled in back at their desks. They need time to focus on the rest of the day, and everything they have to get done this afternoon. I don’t want to rush them or distract them. No one likes a pushy salesperson. Me call my prospects now? Not on your life. I’ll wait.

I cannot make a sales call at 2:00PM. My prospects are probably in meetings, and the last thing I want to do is interrupt. Afternoon meetings are always so important. My prospects probably have lots of important things to do and ideas to discuss. My sales call wouldn’t stand a chance. I’m better off waiting a little.

I cannot make a sales call at 3:00PM. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and my prospects are beginning to realize how much is left to do before the end of the day. If I call now, I’ll just be getting in their way. They won’t be able to finish their work because of me. Not a good way to make a favorable impression.  Now would be a terrible time to call.  I’ll hold off just a bit.

I cannot make a sales call at 4:30PM. I don’t want to look desperate. And I don’t want to appear rude for calling late in the day. They’d be asking themselves why I waited until the end of the day to call them. Not to mention that my prospects are all probably starting to think about going home soon. My calls would be really annoying if I called now.  I know that I would be really aggravated if a salesperson called me now. 

I cannot make a sales call after 5:00pm. My prospects have all probably left work. They’re probably on their way home. Their day is done. Sounds like a good idea. I should head home as well. Rest up for tomorrow. Another busy day calling prospects.

Sales: The Most Fun You Can Have at Work

Sales = Fun.

I know not everybody agrees with that formula. In fact, many people strongly disagree. But let me tell why I it’s true for me.

First, I get to meet all kinds of interesting people, who work in a wide variety of businesses. These people come from various backgrounds, each with interesting experiences and world views.

Second, selling allows me to learn about different products and services, like soda bottlers, cosmetics producers, chocolate creators and health care providers. Not to mention grocery vendors, cruise ship companies, and gas and electricity suppliers. And that’s just a few.

That’s fun to me. And we’re not even to the point where we are working together. This is just the sales process, the beginning of the relationship. This is the part where we learn about each other and work hard to identify and solve a problem. This is where they tell me what they think they need, and I either agree or suggest an alternative. It’s about being quick on my feet, and adapting to situations. It’s about being able to come up with solutions that make sense. It’s about being creative, nimble and open. But it is never, ever about me forcing something onto them. Selling is about collaborating, right from the beginning of the relationship.

See why I think sales is fun? It can be fun for you as well. It starts with your mind-set. If you think selling is drudgery, you will probably make it so. And, if you see it as a job filled with wonderful opportunities, you can make that come true as well.

I’ll take it one step further. Customers come in all different shapes, sizes and temperaments. I even like working with the difficult ones. They can be a challenge, but that’s the part I enjoy, figuring out how to work with them so that they enjoy this as much as I do.

Want to have some fun this week? Try selling. Open yourself to the possibilities and opportunities that are out there. Strive for fun. Everything else will follow.

Stop Hiding Behind Facebook

You have a large number of Friends on Facebook. And you have many Connections on LinkedIn. Not to mention numerous Followers on Twitter. That’s great. But, right here, right now, how many prospects do you have? Friends, connections and followers are all wonderful to have. We want them. But we need people who will buy our products and services. And we need to reach out to them.

It’s time to push away from Facebook and pick up the phone. It’s time to stop the social activity and call on prospects.

Recently, I was hired by a VP of Sales to deliver a series of workshops and coaching sessions. When I asked what training needs he saw in his people, he explained that his salespeople believed an email was the same as a sales call. Startling, right? Except that it is not an unusual idea these days. In fact, I encounter it frequently. I am sorry to tell you that an email is not the same as a sales call. An email can have many positive attributes. It is instantaneous. It is concise. It can be shared simultaneously with many key players. But, it is not the same as a sales call.

A sales call is personal. It is face-to-face. It is a productive use of your time. It demonstrates to the prospect that you care. It gives them the chance to see how well you listen and comprehend. It is an opportunity for you to see their operation and meet other key players in the organization. It’s a way of differentiating you from your competitors. It’s too good to pass up!

So, here are a few steps to take. First, you don’t have to stop using social media. Far from it. I encourage you to continue using it. But always with the idea of reaching your objectives, not just being social. Next, make a list of five prospects you can call each day for the next five days. A total of 25 prospects, five per day. Be clear in your mind what you will say to them. Now, all you have to do is call them.  Make it your first activity each morning. Then you can go back to being social.

Meet Your New Competition: the Delete Key

Selling has never been more challenging. You are pulled in a thousand different directions, at work and at home.  Everything is hectic and demanding. It’s important to remember that the same is true for your customers and prospects. Like you, they have endless demands on their time. They are overwhelmed by the idea of a new salesperson, from a new supplier, calling them and trying to get an appointment.  Why should they disrupt an already hectic day to meet with someone trying to sell them something that is already provided by an existing supplier? That’s the challenge we are all facing these days in sales.

In her book “SNAP Selling,” Jill Konrath describes today’s prospects this way, “Your prospects read your e-mails with their finger on the Delete key. They listen to your voice mails with their finger on the Delete key…Every three to five seconds they ask themselves, ‘Is this of interest?’ If not, you’re gonzo. Delete, delete, delete.”  Tough, right?

So, what’s the opportunity? How can we reverse this so it works to our advantage? The opportunity is this: so many salespeople do not understand the challenges and difficulties their prospects go through all day, every day. If you understand their work-life and adapt to it,  you will come out ahead.  Focus your efforts on making their job easier and simpler. If you assume that you are selling a commodity, regardless of what you sell, the sale is now all about value-added.  Be different from your competition. Differentiation has always been a critical skill in sales, but never as important as it is today.

Let’s look at a simple but essential part of the sales process, leaving a voice mail message for a new prospect. Most messages are terrible, for all kinds of reasons. Some of them ramble, while others are vague. Some are packed with details, while others are way too casual. And some of them, talk down to the prospect “I’ll be in your neighborhood on Friday, and thought I’d stop by and introduce myself.” Delete. Most salepoeple never get a meeting with a prospect because of their message. They just get deleted. So, instead, they call back, leaving another message. Of course, they are starting the downward spiral of annoying the prospect. This will not end well.

Focus on crafting a message that is concise, and introduces you and your company. Include how you have helped similar organizations. And always try to include a number, a figure that measures how you helped them. It could be a percentage increase in sales, or a dollar increase in profits, or a percentage decrease in costs. Give them tangible, measurable results.

Your voice mail message is at the very beginning of your relationship with this prospect. Because it is such a critically important step, you need to know how you sound. Invest in a small tape recorder, and practice your messages before you actually use one. Listen closely. Be critical. Imagine that you are the prospect. What first impression are you forming based on this message? What specific value are you describing? If you’re just describing your company’s capabilities, that’s probably an automatic delete. Listen to your voice tone. You want to be enthusiastic without being peppy. You want to be taken seriously without being serious. You want to be conversational without being casual.

It all comes down to describing the value you offer in a concise way, and the results you could provide. Remember, you’re trying to break through everything that your prospect is experiencing during their hectic day. I’m not saying that this is easy. Just necessary.


Are You Collecting or Connecting?

Social media sites are very alluring. They make all sorts of implied promises. “More connections!” “Reach more people!” Even the names for contacts are appealing. Facebook wants to increase our number of Friends, where Twitter speaks about Followers.  It all sounds good, and in fact, a lot of it is very good. But, many of us are on these sites, and we don’t know why. We aren’t using the sites. Instead, we gather names with no idea of what to do with them. We are collecting but not connecting. Here are a fews suggestions for you.

1. Post regularly. Let us know what you have been up to. Let us celebrate your successes with you, and allow us help you with your challenges.

2. Comment on other people’s posts. Share your opinions and beliefs with us. Even if you just “like” others’ comments, we will better understand who you are and what you value.

3. Invite discussion by posing a question. I am always amazed at how strong a reaction these types of posts get. I asume it’s because we want to share, even in public, our opinions and beliefs.

4. Think of your connections as people, not just numbers. What would interest them, or amuse them, or surprise them?

5. Participate in this new landscape. Use a site to contact someone you may not know all that well and ask them a question, or get their opinion, or seek their advice. Start building a relationship. It’s easier than you think.

The social media sites are all strong and powerful tools that can help you connect with people around the world, or help you discover a new one. You are only limited by your creativity.

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: