Brilliant Selling Book  

Mar 14, 2016

Sales Tip: How to Resolve Customer Problems

How to resolve problems with your customersIt is a fact of life that inevitably difficulties will crop up during your business dealings with you customers.  How you deal with those difficulties is crucial for the on-going development of your business relationship.

When difficulties arise
Difficulties can include any issues that have the potential to disrupt the business relationship.  They include situations such as:

  • A late delivery to your customer
  • Having a particularly aggressive negotiation over terms
  • Mistakenly giving the customer incorrect information
  • Not following through on a commitment you make.

Whilst we do what we can to avoid these situations, when they do arise we need to address even the smallest of difficulties.  Just because something is not, on its own, enough to create a big problem it is important to know that if we ignore it or respond in a way that doesn’t truly satisfy the customer then it can then compound.  And then the next ‘small thing’ could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

How to deal with customer problemsIn our research for Brilliant Selling we found that how issues or problems were tackled was one of the things that separated Brilliant Salespeople from the rest.

The easy solution
These small individual difficulties are called ‘pinches’ and the Pinch Model describes what happens if we don’t deal with individual pinches effectively.

When we first become aware of a pinch, the temptation might be to resolve it in the quickest way possible.  For example, if we send out an incorrect invoice and our customer queries it, we may be tempted to simply correct it and send out a new one.

But this doesn’t address the wider effect of the error.  The mistake may have impacted our customer’s trust levels, or made them feel less confidence that we can take care of the detail.  They may feel less valued leading them to question other things and the quality of our relationship.

How to deal with issues that arise with customers

What we should do
When there is a pinch, even if it is only small, we must fully address the issue to prevent future issues building up and damaging the relationship by creating a ‘crunch’.

The first thing to do when we become aware of a possible pinch point is to recognise that this is something that might be really important to the customer, and then use it as a way of going back to them to:
a) let them know we are concerned and want to address the issue in the right way, and
b) use it as an opportunity to create more clarity on how we will be working together going forward to avoid similar issues occurring.  

By stating relationship expectations and ways of working in this way we continually build a stronger relationship going forward.

How to resolve customer problemsHow to do it
One thing that can hold us back from having difficult conversations is that we don’t know how to approach it and we are fearful of the possible reaction.  There is no substitute for being honest, and it is best to address the difficulties as they occur.  You can say something such as:

“I have just realised that I gave you some mis-information and because our relationship with you is important I want to put that right”, or
“As I think back to our negotiations last week I am concerned that I might have been too aggressive and I want to talk about it so that it doesn’t negatively impact our relationship”.

If you want to raise your game in building lasting customer relationships then think ‘pinch’ and ‘crunch’ each time you have a problem and use the opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

Have you had any customer experiences that you wish had gone differently?  We would love to know, please comment below.

Jan 13, 2016

Ask the Authors – A question of belief

Question: I’m enjoying your book, but wonder if you ever come across people who are reluctant to sell their company’s product, and who don’t necessarily believe in what they are selling? This is an issue where staff have been drafted into telesales from other areas of the business where their skills are no longer needed. Any thoughts on how to tackle this?

Answer: Not everyone who finds themselves in sales set out to be there. I would definitely class myself as an ‘accidental sales person’ in that it wasn’t something that I set out to make a career of. But what if you find yourself in a selling environment where you don’t fully believe in the product or service you are providing? Or perhaps simply don’t believe that you should be selling or that you are any good at it? What can you do in these situations to maximise your success?

I should say that it helps dramatically to believe in what you are selling and to believe in your own abilities: self-belief is at the very heart of effectiveness along with self-awareness. But there are practical steps you can and should take if you find yourself in this situation outlined above on the basis that your mind-set and beliefs impact your behaviours which will impact your results.

Mindset impacts behaviour impacts resultsFirstly, you can only change that of which you are aware. You need to stop and ask yourself what do you believe about either the sales aspect of your role or about the product or service you are selling. Clearly, it is best not to sell something that you feel is unethical or which you fundamentally disagree with but there are a lot of instances where your feelings won’t be so extreme. Once you are aware consciously of exactly how you feel you can do something with it.

A key to success is not to simply try and put the belief behind you and ignore it – that will rarely work. Also, it is unlikely to help if you simply choose to tell yourself that the product or service is great. The challenge is to think about what you can believe (something that could also really be true for you) about the product or service that would be more helpful and so that you can still remain authentic.

Mindset is key in sales conversationsFor example, if you were selling car insurance and did not feel positive about it, you could choose to think about the fact that the insurance would give people peace of mind or help others who’s vehicle might have been damaged in a crash. If you choose to hold that more positive thought in your mind as you engage with the activity of selling it will make you more resourceful and lead to more positive results.

Another thing that can help is setting activity based goals. Set goals around the specific things you need to do (even if they are things that you don’t want to do) to make the sale (number of calls, number of conversations or meetings etc.) and give yourself a small reward when you have hit them. Often, these small things help keep you focused and motivated.

So, mind-set is critical for sales success but in those cases where a positive mind-set doesn’t come naturally, you can take conscious action that will enhance your results and your experience. As with any skill though, it takes practice…

Do you agree?  Let us know your experiences, we read all of the comments.

Apr 1, 2015

What is Influence?

The C3 Model of Influencing Field Guide by Tom Bird and Jeremy CassellWe do a lot of work with individuals in sales and business development functions. We find we are often asked by managers to ‘clone’ the highly successful individuals: to teach a group how to become like someone who is held up as an exemplar. But this is a dangerous request and in our experience it just doesn’t work.

People are individuals and trying to clone someone who is highly successful and tell others that this is how they need to be implies they need to change their personality. But influence is not something that can be easily detached from personality.

Our definition of influence is to ‘produce an effect on an individual or group by imperceptible or intangible means’. It’s about being a compelling force to produce an effect on the behaviours, actions and opinions of others.  At its simplest, influencing is about putting your point of view across in a compelling way that motivates another person, or group, to take the action you desire. The root of the word influence comes from the medieval English word ‘influent’ meaning to ‘flow in’. So influence is about a flow rather than simply something you ‘do’ to someone.

In most situations that you will encounter, influencing is subtle. It takes place outside of conscious awareness and is a combination of what you communicate and how you communicate it- verbally and non-verbally.  You might want them to:

  • take a certain decision
  • buy a product or service
  • agree with and commit to a course of action
  • simply to hear your point of view.

You will be using your voice, body language, and the power of language to either create a compelling message – or one that falls on deaf ears.

Whilst some people seem naturally and easily able to influence, it is a skill that can be learned by paying attention to, and developing, the right things and by putting your awareness on your current preferences in how you influence, so that you can be more flexible in how you communicate with different people.

How to Influence - The C3 Model of Influencing Field GuideWe created our C3 Model of Influencing™ to give you the framework to do just that. What’s more, it’s based on research and has been proven to be effective in a wide variety of influencing contexts and situations.

The C3 Model of Influencing™ Field Guide is available on Amazon.

Mar 18, 2015

Asking Credible Questions

Asking credible questions when selling

We had a good question on our TomandJerryUK facebook page recently about credibility, asking us how to judge whether a question will build your credibility or not.

Asking insightful questions is of course a great way to build your credibility, to show that you really know your subject, and also to build a connection with someone by showing you are interested.

Our advice was to avoid boring questions, or those to which you already know the answer.  What we teach in our Business Development/Sales programmes is that a great question is “what is important to you about….?”.  This elicits values and if you can then match these values with what you deliver then you are more likely to win the work.  Shared values definitely form the basis of successful business relationships.

The example we often use is that of finally getting in front of a long-courted client for a briefing prior to submitting a proposal.  Having asked the “what is important to you about” question in relation to buying training he mentioned the word ‘rigour’.  So we of course ensured that we included the word ‘rigour’ a couple of times in our proposal.  When we found that we had won the work we asked the client what it was that made him chose us.  The reply?  “You seemed to speak our language”.  Whilst its not as simplistic as that, it illustrates how finding out values and responding accordingly can have an impact.

Here is a reminder of our 7 core principles to guide you in asking questions.  You can find more details in our ‘Asking the RIGHT questions’ blog:

  1. Start with an attitude of curiosity
  2. Have a clear outcome for your questions
  3. Let the conversation flow naturally
  4. Use both open and closed questions
  5. Make your questions understandable
  6. Ask questions that help you to pinpoint the dominant buying motivations
  7. Avoid offending your buyers!

Sales book

Interestingly our chapter from Brilliant Selling on Asking the Right Questions has now been included in Pearson’s (our publishers) new book “10 Brilliant Chapters from 10 Brilliant Books“.

Do you have any questions that you find work well? We would  love to hear about in the Comments below.




Feb 4, 2015

Sales Tip: Why You Should Become a Good Listener

Effective listening skills are essential to become a brilliant salespersonBeing a good listener is one of the key characteristics that all brilliant sales people have.  When we undertook our survey to help inform us when we wrote Brilliant Selling, we found that when we asked ‘what are your key strengths as a salesperson?’ listening was the top answer.

Many of us think we are good listeners – but are we really?  Are you guilty of any of the bad listening habits below?  If you are then remember that awareness is the first step towards insight that allows you to improve.

So if you recognise that you have some of the bad habits here, print out our graphic and look at it before you go into your next customer meeting, and ensure that you are truly listening effectively next time. It WILL make a difference.

Become a good listener to sell more
You can download our Become a Good Listener to Sell More graphic here.  Do you have any tips on becoming a really effective listener?

Jan 14, 2015

How do you sell?

There are essentially two models of selling. You and your business are likely to adopt the one that best suits your market. Here is a brief overview of the two approaches:

Transactional Selling
The focus of transactional selling is finding prospects with a requirement to develop relationships, focus on features and benefits and to take orders for desired products at an acceptable price for all parties. The customers have a clear need for a ‘standard’ product or service and will be interested in sources that can provide it at the right time and at an reasonable price.

Consultative (or solution. relationship) Selling
In consultative, solution or relationship selling (all synonyms), the salesperson develops a greater understanding of the challenges faced by the customer and there is likely to be a tailored solution. Communicating features and positioning statements become less important, whilst questioning and listening becomes more important.

The actual purchase decision is often managed through a proposal, contract negotiation and solution delivery. The consultative selling approach is much more common nowadays and is most appropriate for businesses that offer a transformational product or service, such as consulting or specialised items.

To quote Neil Rackham, English writer and speaker on sales and marketing:

‘Too many salespeople are “talking brochures”, trying to show customers how their products or services are better than competitors. Salespeople must become value creators.’

Overview of how you sell - for blog 3 - Jan 2015







Do you agree with what Neil says?  You can download the comparison table Transactional vs Consultative Selling here.

Sep 29, 2014

Sales Results vs Sales Performance

Imagine this scene.  You have just finished a lengthy sales meeting with your boss.  You have been left in no doubt that you have to hit the quarterly revenue target.  In fact you spent most of the meeting discussing the revenue number and the prospects and how likely they were to close this quarter.  Your boss is under pressure and therefore so are you, so the focus was on ranking and likelihood of deal closing.  Does that sound familiar?  This meeting is about results only.

It is often said that ‘sales is all about results’.  In a real way this is true, but the only problem is we can’t ‘do’ a result.  If the sole focus of our attention is on the number, target or sector penetration percentage then we might know when we have got there (because it is measureable) but in order to ‘get there’ and achieve that objective we will need to focus on performance – those things that we can control or do and which either contribute or detract from achieving the result.

Contrast this with a meeting that outlines the result (you need to hit the number) and then discussed your specific action plan for each account.  Perhaps for one the focus is on the next meeting and how you can plan and prepare.  Maybe for another it is brainstorming how you can reach the decision-maker and what you can do to influence them the most.  This meeting is focusing on different aspects of performance that will help to maximise the chance of achieving the result or objective that you want.

What makes a focus on performance so effective is that YOU are in control of it.  If you think about an Olympic swimmer training for the 400m freestyle event, clearly the result he or she wants is to win the event.  But the swimmer can’t control the outcome because there will be seven other swimmers in the same pool.   But the swimmer can focus on his/her own performance and set a challenging performance goal which acts as the focus.

There are many things that contribute to performance in sales and you need to keep focused only on these things that you can control or things that you are able to influence.  A big part of what can make the difference is being able to influence in ALL sales situations – whether it is a telephone conversation, a first face-to-face meeting or a key presentation – and not just those situations in which we feel comfortable.

We have developed ‘C-cubed influence’ to focus on 3 areas that we can all control – confidence, credibility and connection – in order to become highly influential in any sales situation.  We regularly teach C-cubed influence to our clients around the world, and if you are strong in all these three areas then you will become a highly skilled influencer.

Sep 1, 2014

Check out our Podcast

We were delighted to be invited by Nicola Cairncross, successful internet marketing entrepreneur and creator of the Business Success Factory, to take part in one of her regular podcast interviews with global entrepreneurs.

In the interview Nicola probed how we have got to where we are in life, how we built up six and seven-figure businesses, how we work together and our thoughts on selling through influence.

You can listen to the interview now (below), or you can download it from I-tunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud here.

Podcast – Tom and Jerry talk to Nicola Cairncross about their business mind, business marketing and business money:



Aug 12, 2014

Sales Tip: Active Listening Improves Influence

Listening should be an active process and if you develop this muscle you will improve your ability to influence others and move them towards the outcome you want.

Here are our eight rules of active listening.  How many of these do you already use?  If you know that you have some weak areas on this list then try to be aware of them and focus on them next time you are in a sales situation.  If you can listen better you will understand better, giving you insight and more opportunity to have more influence in the situation.

  1. Value the other party: show concern and demonstrate that you respect their position
  2. Listen to what is not said: pay attention to what is missing, beliefs masked as judgements and the tells of body language
  3. Limit the time you speak: most people have low attention spans. Salespeople can tend to talk too much- try to minimise your chunks of ‘sales speak’ to about 30 seconds. You may have heard of the ‘power of three’ before. Three is a magical number and if you limit yourself to three key points you will come across with more credibility
  4. Avoid thinking about what you are about to say: you will miss their message. Do not try and manipulate the conversation by asking questions which you already know the answer to
  5. Listen to the other party’s point of view:  they have a unique and different perception of the world
  6. Repeat and reflect the other’s comments:  this will ensure you have heard them correctly. Alternately, summarise their words
  7. Take notes: but avoid transcripts
  8. Maintain eye contact: do this whenever possible.

Do you have anything to add to this list?  We would love to have your comments.

Jun 24, 2014

Sales Tip – Asking the RIGHT Questions


Here are our seven core principles that will guide you to ask the right questions:


  1. Start with an attitude of curiosity
    Any salesperson familiar with a consultative approach will use questions naturally, and asking intelligent questions comes from an attitude of curiosity.  Think about it carefully – you are on a ‘quest’ for information.  If you have children you will know that if they are curious about something, they will quite naturally ask questions.  And curiosity is contagious so you will soon find that the person you are influencing becomes curious about their own situation! As Albert Einstein said “The important thing is not to stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existing”.
  2. Have a clear outcome for your questions
    You need to ask yourself “what am I trying to achieve by asking questions?”  This avoids using unnecessary or random questions.
  3. Let the conversation flow naturally
    Having good questioning techniques does not mean you must become an interrogator!  Avoid the clipboard approach and let the conversation flow.
  4. Use both open and closed questions
    – Open questions start with who, why, what, how, where and when
    – Closed questions elicit a yes/no answer.
    There is no evidence that we have ever seen to imply that open questions are more successful in making a sale, but it is likely that you will start with an open question to elicit information and there will be more open questions in a typical sales conversation.  Use closed questions for clarification and agreement.
  5. Make your questions understandable
    We have heard far too many sales questions that are frankly unintelligible.  These include asking multiple questions as one question, asking a question and then answering it themselves or asking a question which is not really linked to what is being discussed.  Make sales question straightforward to understand – often simple questions are the most powerful.  Such as:
    – What do you want?
    – What are your key priorities?
    – What is working for you?
    – What is really going to make a difference?
  6. Ask questions that help you to pinpoint the dominant buying motivations
    Specific needs and buying motivations are not always the same. Buying motivations are about desires and feelings – they are more emotional and intangible. You can discover what motivates your buyer- what they want- by asking simple questions, such as: ‘What kind of similar products or services have you brought in the past?’  The knowledge you gain will tell you what benefits to emphasise.
  7. Avoid offending your buyers! 
    Some questions can offended a prospect and cause them to reject you and your ideas.  Avoid leading or ‘set up’ such as ‘You do want your children to have a fair chance, don’t you?’ What is the prospect going to say? “No! It’s a tough world- let them sink or swim!”  Nosey, gossipy or overly personal questions can be a real turn off too, so stick to the business! Sometimes your manner can be threatening, for example instead of asking ‘how much do you want to spend?’, why not phrase it, “how much have you planned to invest?”.

We hope these guiding principles help you to improve your questioning, to gain clearer insight into what your buyer wants, and to be more successful in meeting that need.