Apr 6, 2009

‘Brilliant Selling’ – Tell Us What You Think

Well, as ever, Tom has been very organised and is well ahead with his contribution to book writing.  And we all know that Jeremy will take it to the line but get there with a last minute flash of inspiration!  But seriously, our budding authors have been working hard and its all coming together really well…. and now its your chance to contribute…..

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Mar 13, 2009

Slow Burn Prospects

It’s always a good idea to look back at how you got your key customers and what the process was from initial contact to making the first sale and I have just gone through an exercise of doing this for the last couple of years. The results surprised me a bit.

I remember going on a sales course where I was told that, from the perspective of good time management, you should only to try and contact a potential prospect 3 times. Statistically, I was told, you are far better off striking them off the list after the third attempt and moving on.

For some reason, I have never done that. In my market (small numbers of higher value sales) I think it is more important that you correctly define the prospects that you want to target and find out as much as you can before you call. This ‘front-loading’ of research time is a bit of a risk but, if you are calling someone senior, you really do only get one chance at the first impression so it had better be good! A recent article by Robert Clay referenced the following:

75% of all enquiries by prospects are never followed up
80% of all sales (for non-standard products) need at least five follow-ups
44% of all sales people give up at the first ‘no’
22% give up after the 2nd ‘no’
14% give up after the 3rd ‘no’
12% give up after the 4th ‘no’.
This leaves 8% of the sales people doing 80% of the business.

Now, there are ‘lies, damn lies and statistics” but I think there is some truth here. As I look back at some of the biggest customers I have secured in the last 3 years, it has taken me on average 10 calls before I could speak to the right person but I am SO glad I persevered! One notable customer took me 17 attempts before I spoke to the CEO. When I do get through to them I need to have the right information at my fingertips and that takes a little time to research.

So, this will depend upong your product or service and sector but there are cases where prospecting is not about quantity but about quality.

Once you have established a prospect I have found it really important to stay in contact and add value at every opportunity that you can. In my sector, this means ringing them every couple of months and asking them what their priority is right now and then seeing how I can give something that is valuable or helps them. In one recent example I have uncovered a piece of work with a prospect that I started talking to over 2 years ago and have not yet sold anything to. It struck me that this is not a bad way of protecting your time investment – once I have got a contact it is easier and quicker to keep in touch and add value then to forget them if they don’t buy immediately and go off to find a new prospect. I have had three 1-hour meetings with this prospect, spoken to them on 5 occassions in between over the telephone and am now the only person they are talking to about this project. Not a bad return.

What are your experiences and thoughts on this topic? When do you walk away?

Mar 9, 2009

Getting the book deal

If you had told me three years ago that I would be writing a business book commissioned by a leading business publishing house I would not have believed you.

We thought that it might be interesting to keep a blog relating to the process of getting the book, Brilliant Selling’, written and published – it feels a little strange starting the story with only an idea of how it might end…

Sitting comfortably?

It started some two years ago with our genuine interest and passion for sales which probably led to Jeremy and I working together anyway (along with some other shared interests and goals of course). Actually, we could have been ‘sitting comfortably’ in that our training business was growing,  we had some great clients and were working both in the UK and throughout Europe.  We were talking about our strategy for the next couple of years and Jeremy mentioned that he would really like to write a book. After much discussion we came up with the idea of a book on sales management. Both Jeremy and I had been sales managers and felt that there was very little in the way of resources to help turn a succesfsul sales person into an effective manager of sales people.

The Proposal

We set about writing a proposal. Actually, this took us a long time. A couple of months at least – not full-time but creating a first draft, thinking about it, returning to it and ammending it. Finally we had something we were really pleased with ‘The Four Pillars of Successful Sales Management – the complete new resource for all sales managers to maximise results…right now!” Now I read it back, maybe it wasn’t that snappy!

We bought a copy of ‘The Writer’s Handbook’, sent the proposal off to around 50 agents and sat back to wait over a few literary lunches with lots of red wine. Surprisingly, the phone didn’t ring off the hook. We did get some good responses and most suggested that we would be better off going direct to a publisher for this kind of book. Back to ‘The Writer’s Handbook’ and out went the proposal to 30 publishers.  Well, things went awfully quiet after that and we were just thinking that the publishing community weren’t yet ready for us when, in the space of two weeks, two publishers called and invited us to meet with them.

Interestingly, neither publisher felt that the idea of a sales management book would sell well but both were interested in a book on selling. It needed to be a practical ‘how to’ book with lots of tips and advice – just what we had planned with our sales management book but aimed at sales people. When we went away to research the market we found that there was a gap and we got more and more excited about a book that had potentially far wider appeal.

In February 2009 we signed the deal with Pearsons for Brilliant Selling.


A few key learning points by way of a summary to this stage:

  • Spend the time researching your market before writing a book proposal. Be clear on why you think there is a market and what other books service that market along with why yours will be different.
  • Write a good, clear proposal. Ours was about 14 pages long and included sections on the purpose of the book, the target audience, the style & format, proposed chapter headings, competitive books and biographies of the authors (us). In addition, we created a sample chapter to show (hopefully) that we could write and give a better indication of style.
  • Be prepared to be flexible. Punlishers have ideas about what will work for them and their market. In our case we wanted to write a book that was practical and about something we knew we could add value to. Instead f sales managementwe ended up focusing on the broader market of sales.
  • I have heard from lots of authors not to be put off by a lack of response but, even as a sales person, it would have been easy to carry on focusing n the ‘day job’ and forget the idea of a book. If you have a good idea for a book and you take the right steps there is a good chance your proposal will be read. Don’t expect it to happen immediately.

Now Jeremy and I just have to write it…

Feb 20, 2009

Welcome to Brilliant Selling

Well, this is the first post on our Brilliant-Selling Blog Site and it may be that we should answer a few questions right at the start.

Why Brilliant-Selling?

The idea for this blog came about after we had been approached by Pearsons to write a book for their ‘Brilliant’ series called…yes…Brilliant Selling.

Selling is something that both Jeremy and myself are passionate about. We have been selling and teaching others to sell for over 40 man years! Whilst the book we are writing was a catalyst for this blog we have long felt the need to form a community of people who are involved in sales or selling in some way and who would like to  share ideas, learn from others and generally keep up to date with current thinking.

Some of you will be career sales people, some will work for large organisations, some for small companies and some will be involved indirectly with selling (perhaps in a support function). Some of you will have undergone sophisticated sales training, some may have attended a couple of workshops and others may have received no formal training is sales at all.

Selling is a very personal and sometimes lonely activity and skill. We want Brilliant-Selling to provide some support and new thinking as well as reminders of good practice.

Why us?

Jeremy and I love sales and selling. We have a passion for communicating ideas, concpets and products and we have had successful sales careers in a variety of organisations from high-tech and software through to beauty and cosmetics, product and service through to complex solutions. We have sold directly to users of our products or services as well as indirectly to distributors, partners and stockists. We understand the demands and differences that exist within the sales role.

We now spend a lot of our time training and developing people to become better at selling and managing accounts. At the time of writing this post, these skills are even more important in the market. Over the years that Jeremy and I have worked together we have learnt a lot about what really works in sales and we have trained a lot of people. We have also found that whilst there are a lot of resources about specific proprietary sales approaches and methodologies there is not a lot that addresses the daily issues and challenges that we all face in our sales work.

What is our intent?

Our intent is to ‘add value’. What an over-used term! I had better be specific about what I mean…

We will add posts regularly on topics that we see as being current. These posts will be driven by our own work in sales and sales training as well as input and ideas from you. This means that the topics covered will be ‘current’ and likely to be of relevance to you. We will offer thoughts and ideas that might help you think more clearly or differently about a particular aspect of sales. We will seek your comments and views. All of this will encourage thinking around these topics and, thinking more about soemthing tends to improve our performance.

How will this benefit you?

This blog is a source of information and ideas to help you think more about different aspects of your selling. This is likely to lead to improvements! It’s an opportunity for you to contribute so you can ask questions and we will give you some answers. This is likely to provoke comment from others and that is going to expand your thinking. If a post on this blog helps you change only one thing that contributes to a sale that you would not have got otherwise then it has a real value.

Consume, contribute, ENJOY…