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Subtle Cues And Crabs

15 Apr

If you tug too quickly on the string, the crab drops the chicken and sidesteps away.  If you drop the net in the water too aggressively, the ripples frighten off your prey.  It’s only when you pull the string in one finger width at a time, when the crab realizes it’s being hunted only after it’s in your net, that you land your catch.


Click to see some crabbing on a string!

I recently began using an iPad in sales calls.  It’s a powerful tool for product demos, but it scared away my prospects.  Why?

To ensure I could quickly launch into a demo, I flipped open the case cover and logged in before sales calls.  In an industry where prospects give sales people a very limited amount of time to present their wares, I thought having my iPad ready for action would be a strategic advantage.

But as soon as I walked into a prospect’s office, his eyes shifted to my open iPad and his pupils dilated in fear.  The iPad was my net, and I had clearly dipped it into the water too early.  Before I even got to qualify, nonetheless demo my product, the prospect darted away like a crab.

Revealing our sales tools too early and rushing to make our pitch is a sure way to scare off our catch.   And sometimes, it’s just a subtle cue, a signal of the demo to come, that alarms our prospects.  In my case it was the open iPad.

As soon as I realized my mistake and closed the case before walking into offices, my prospects opened up to me again.

Are you scaring away your crab?


The No Name Game.

7 Feb

“How long can you last without mentioning our product?”

That’s the question my sales manager asked me my first week on the job.  He wanted to know this: in a sales call, how long could I have a conversation with a potential customer without mentioning the name of our product?

When the A, B, C’s of selling are “Always be closing,” this game seemed counter-intuitive.  How could I sell anything to anyone without telling him about my wares?

Only with serious suspicions did I at first play the “no naming our product game.”  By the end of my time as a sales rep, I played it religiously.  It was clearly making me highly successful.


Nearly every book on sales mentions the importance of establishing relationships.  My sales manager had a deeper insight.  He taught me that as soon as you mention the name of your product, the nature of the conversation changes.  What was once a chat about the customer and his or her needs now at some level becomes transactional.  When you name your product, you’re now a salesman trying to make a sale, no matter how aggressive or pushy you are.

My manager begged me to hold off on mentioning my product because he knew that I needed to get to know my customers before becoming a salesman in their eyes.  He knew that as soon as I mentioned my product, I could no longer ask qualifying questions freely.

In your next sales call, should you bring a stop watch and clock how long you can last before turning the conversation to your product?  Maybe or maybe not.  But I beg you to ask yourself this question:

  • Am I ready to change the nature of the conversation by mentioning my product? 

Money Is Like Honey. It Attracts Every Bear.

30 Jan

If you’re trying to seed the market for sales reps.  If you’re trying to introduce big potential customers to your brand by setting up product trials and reviews.  Then incentivize those people with money.

Money is like honey; it’ll lure the big bears to climb your tree. 


But if learning is what you’re after.  If you’re really interested in feedback that will improve your product.  Then find customers who will try your product or attend your focus group for free.  Seek out those consumers that care enough about what you do that they’re willing to give up their time at no cost to make your product better.

The best feedback comes from those that don’t need to be paid to give it. 

If making a big sale is all you’re after, attract the big bears with lots of honey.  But if knowledge is your goal, often times the most important incentive is no incentive at all.

Introverts and Sales

21 Jan

I’m quiet.  I sneak off to avoid saying goodbyes.  I relish the lonely dinner.  Which is why I liked Grant Cardone’s short article on introverts and sales so much: .

Why should you read it?  Because he makes a point that dismantles the often-held notion that sales careers are not for introverts:

  • The label introvert is imperfect because it’s situation sensitive. Our level of introversion depends on the social situation.

I’m an introvert, but I know the exact feeling Cardone alludes to, of being able to “turn it on” in a sales call or in a presentation.  Listening is the introvert’s greatest sales skill (of course it is, we’re introverts).  But Cardone makes a great point about introverts and talking about our products: if we’re passionate about something, if we know it inside and out (as introverts often know things), we can and will persuasively talk about it.


Many friends and colleagues of mine have career goals.  To make those dreams come true, they’ll have to go into the field and gain sales experience.  Yet they prolong taking a sales position because as introverts, they don’t see themselves as sales people.  They “could never do sales” because they can’t imagine talking to strangers or selling something.

They’re fooled by the stereotypes that sales is all about “the pitch” and that as introverts, they’re just too quiet for it.   They let these incorrect labels determine what they can and can’t do.  They avoid the uncomfortable at all costs, when if they embraced sales, I don’t think they’d find it uncomfortable at all.


My Biggest Success Came From My Biggest Mistake.

14 Jan

One of my biggest mistakes as a sales rep led to one of my very biggest sales.  And it taught me a lot about working with others, both professionally and personally.

As a textbook sales rep, I worked a situation at Northwest Vista College for nearly a year.  At first, my potential customers were wary.  They openly voiced their distrust of sales reps, having been burned multiple times by the company they currently were working with.  But over the course of a year, I developed a relationship with each committee member, winning their trust.  Eventually, they invited me to present to their faculty.

At the presentation, they loved our content.  Our commitment to service.  And the incredibly low price I quoted them, a price point they couldn’t resist.

A price point that was HORRIBLY wrong.  A price that I had carelessly misquoted.  A price they now expected after the presentation, but that my company could never honor.

When I realized my mistake, I called my contact on the committee.  I thought their excitement for working with me and my chances of making the sale would quickly evaporate.  They were clearly suspicious of dishonesty from publishers, and it looked a lot like I lied about price to just to close the sale.

After I admitted my error, my contact told me she’d get back to me and hung up the phone.  An hour later, she let me know they’d be working with me for the next three years.

I had won the sale, not in spite of my mistake, but because of it.  They were impressed at my honesty, with me coming clean so quickly and putting the order on the line instead of sweeping the issue under the rug.  They didn’t choose my product.  They chose me.

When a customer buys something from you, they’re not just buying the product, they’re buying the person they bought it from.  I didn’t need to be perfect to close the sale…just honest.  It’s my best closing tool.   

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