When it comes to building long-term relationships with clients, it’s very similar to building long-term friendships. In school, children are encouraged to make new friends by talking with others, inviting them to play, and being “nice” to them. In many business situations, clients often become more than clients. They become friends…not necessarily the kind you would invite to non-business gatherings, but people you truly care about and who care about you.

There is a feature in a local newspaper where readers are invited to review their favorite restaurant. The articles are wonderful publicity for the restaurants. One of the key elements I see repeated is that patrons know the names of the owners, hosts and/or servers. And, many of the restaurant workers know something about them as well. They know if the guests prefer coffee or tea with breakfast. They may even remember their favorite meal, asking if they want “the usual.

Put yourself in the seats of those guests for a moment. How would it make you feel to have your favorites automatically placed before you without having to explain your preferences? It would make you feel at home or as if you’re at the home of a good friend…someone who knows you well and wants you to have what you want. That type of response is the ideal when it comes to serving your clients’ needs and it can be created no matter what your product or service is.

You may think you’re in the business of selling automotive services, home remodeling or repairs, printing services, financial services, tutoring or signage, but you’re not. Even if your products are sold only to other businesses, the business doesn’t make the buying decision. A person does. You are in the people business. Learning to make people feel important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of your career.

Maybe you sell tires, not breakfast. Even so, you should introduce yourself to each client and give your name. Use your clients’ names in conversation during the sales process. Inquire about the use of the vehicle. Does the client have young children or a teenage driver? If so, safety will be an important issue to discuss with them. Do they have a home where some off-road driving is involved? Or, do they travel for business and need highway tires? All of these answers help you lead them to the best choice for them. Keeping a record of their answers will help you build long-term relationships.

No matter what your business is, every client should receive your best care during the sales process and after. During the initial sale, get them talking and take good notes. Enter the information into your client database. My colleague Harvey Mackay has a long list of details he requires his salespeople to gather about clients over time. This includes not just information required to do business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether or not they’re married, children’s names, and whether or not they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and to start conversations with clients after the initial sale.

People like to do business with people who are like them, who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale, and who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them comes along. That type of treatment makes clients feel important. They come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Here we are, four weeks out from ringing in another New Year. Many of us can’t wait to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. These last 11 months are difficult to describe in one word, it’s even hard to describe them in just a few words without finding something negative, sad, or troubling to say, so yes, the rearview mirror analogy could be an excellent way to try and put it all behind us.

However, it’s only a good strategy if we make sure that we can shift our focus on what is in front of us, not only on what’s behind us.

“See, when you drive home today, you’ve got a big windshield on the front of your car. And you’ve got a little bitty rearview mirror. And the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what’s happened in your past is not near as important as what’s in your future.” – Joel Osteen

Success is a funny thing as we can see others succeeding where we feel like we have not.

Whatever they touch turns to gold. They simply have a knack for being successful at whatever they endeavor to do. Even in a difficult COVID year, they were still able to meet with success. What’s the difference? The difference is in the way we see ourselves…

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Before we completely turn the page and allow last week’s Thanksgiving holiday to pass us by, I wanted to take a moment to thank every one of you who have done your very best to truly focus on what you have been most grateful for this past year.

You may not think it matters, but I can assure you that your sense of gratitude and appreciation never goes unnoticed.

And as we roll into the new year, I firmly believe that it is our gratitude and appreciation for the three C’s that may still be ahead of us —

Challenges, Chaos, and Confusion —

That will make the difference. I know that these don’t sound like “Winning Words,” but they are, and let me explain and why I see them as game-changers.

If we had to list all the challenges or difficulties that we have witnessed or that we are experiencing personally, we would have a very lengthy list. Collectively the list would seem insurmountable. So why would I intimate that a challenge is something we should be grateful for? It’s because in every challenge we see someone who emerges and goes out of their way to help someone else. We see people sharing God’s love, pursuing God’s will, doing God’s work, and doing it for all of God’s people…

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… where hope begins.

Over the last 12 years, I have now written 600 published columns. Additionally, I have posted thousands of messages through social media and have been on podcasts, radio interviews, and have appeared as a keynote speaker numerous times here in the states as well as around the globe.

I continue to be humbled by these opportunities to connect with you.

So first, let me say thank you to all of you who send me emails and messages, I sincerely appreciate you all and love our exchanges. Happily, most of our exchanges are extremely positive, after all the column is called “Winning Words.” There is a percentage of our readers who love to challenge me on a thought or an idea that I had shared, and in most cases, it is a very healthy and engaging dialogue. And then there are a few people who try and provoke an argument, all I can say is that sometimes we just have a difference of opinion.

So here in column number 600, I wanted to answer a couple of questions, and sometimes concerns, that I have received from our community. I am often asked why I have not taken a stance or a position on a sensitive topic. Some even suggesting that my silence must clearly define how I really feel or intimating that I have always stayed right down the middle, not choosing sides so that I do not offend anyone. And a part of this is very true as my goal is never to offend anyone but to encourage everyone.

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Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #7:

When there is a perceived need for sales training it usually is driven by someone believing there is a lack of skill or technique in certain areas. Some might believe that parts of the sales organization struggle with the front end of the process, meaning pre-call planning, account planning, preparing, or prospecting. Other companies may argue that their team struggles in the middle part of the sales process such as qualifying and questioning skills or presentation skills. And then there are other sales leaders who believe that their salespeople struggle the most with the end of the process, negotiating, closing, and follow-up. And although there are other skills we could include here such as communication and listening skills, time management or managing the game clock during the sale, account management, etc., and, the above sequencing may be slightly different or the process different from one training company to the next, what gets missed all too often is developing the person.

We cannot train with blinders on and believe there is a quick fix by throwing some skills-based training at our professional sellers, without giving them some of the other important concepts around motivation/attitude, actions/behaviors, and goal setting.

Some of the greatest salespeople we have known or worked with demonstrated strength and highly developed skills in:

  • Building a healthy self-image
  • Developing and maintaining a positive attitude
  • Building winning relationships at home and at work
  • Using “Hope” as a tactic and activator
  • Setting and achieving goals

This is an example from a Zig Ziglar program, Strategies for Success, that has been updated and modified to meet today’s learner. And it is the type of content and concepts that provide the confidence to seek and achieve selling success. For people who are new to sales, an argument can be made that this type of program should be what they go through first, before entering a professional sales training program. Just imagine how we could accelerate success and reduce turnover if we had our new, or new-to-sales folks achieving greater success earlier in their career.

Best Practice #1: When thinking about a sales training program, do not just focus on skills and techniques. Salespeople have 24-hour lives. We expect a lot from them and sometimes they come to us with a lack of confidence or a poor attitude. Sometimes they come to us not knowing what a successful cookbook is or the behaviors they should be doing as opposed to just focusing on a skill or selling technique.

Best Practice #2: Assigning quota is translated differently for high performing salespeople. High performing salespeople set goals and have behavior plans to achieve those goals. They have playbooks so they know what to do in specific situations. A best practice when speaking with sales teams and to people on our team about performance expectations is to talk in terms of goals, not quotas. A quota is something the company wants them to achieve, a goal becomes personal and that means someone with a goal that is personal will work harder to achieve that goal.

Best Practice #3: Some of the top learning and development organizations look at sales training more holistically. These teams place a high value on all personal and professional development. They equip salespeople and the rest of the organization with skills that will help them achieve their goals in all areas of life. They know that giving people tools, attitudes, and behaviors to deal with change, communication, stress, and selling will help them in so many areas outside of work.

Remember, people buy for their reasons, not ours. That also means that people buy-into something for their reasons and not ours. The same holds true for training. If someone knows where they have a gap, or is assessed to help them find those gaps, they will be more likely to actively participate in the training. And when continuous learning is seen as something the company values, prospective employees will want to come and work with your organization. And when we help them become better in all areas of life, we will build a better business around them too.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #5:

How much does a sales training program cost? That is really the wrong question, isn’t it? After all, many times the reason that a sales training program fails is that it was never properly budgeted from the beginning. And it is the wrong question for at least a couple of reasons.
First, when considering the implementation of a sales training program for your organization, there are certain factors that need to be explored before establishing a budget.
  • How many people are you going to put through the training?
  • How many locations will there be?
  • How many people in each classroom?
  • Are you looking for just one training session for each person with no reinforcement?
  • Are you looking for a complete program with follow-on training, coaching, and reinforcement?
  • Are you looking for an online-only solution?
  • Will customization to your company and industry be required?

There could be other factors that will determine the proper budget, but those are the big ones.

The second reason it is the wrong question to ask is because the professional development of the sales organization or anyone within your organization should be seen as an investment. If you really believe that this is a cost to your company, do not move forward with the training. Sales training is an investment, an investment in driving revenue; improving margins; increasing win rates; building deeper and stronger relationships with clients resulting in greater retention, more renewals, and additional upsell/cross-sell opportunities; reducing the turnover within your sales team (which by the way is extremely costly); reducing sales cycle time; and developing bench strength that can grow into management and leadership roles within the company. The simple truth is that there are excellent training organizations out there who can help you in all the areas mentioned above and more. The investment may seem like a lot when first exploring your options but when you figure out that in most cases you will receive a return on that investment of 10X, 20X, and more, in some cases greater than 100X. Yes, the process will be harder than you think and come with a greater investment than you may have been ready for, and it will take longer than you think. But in the end, the results and improvement in the KPI’s that are most important to you will be improved, increased, expanded, or reduced.
Best Practice #1: Don’t let training be a discretionary line item in your budget. Competition is only going to get together as buyers have access to more information and have a greater sense of who they want to work with. Top performing companies make sure that their sales teams are always focused on learning as much as possible so they can add as much value to the customer as possible. This will allow for greater protection of your business and give them the opportunity to usurp the competition as they win net new business.
Best Practice #2: When budget really is an issue or limited, for the time being, smart organizations take a close look at who they should be training first. Most will focus on the moveable middle, specifically those leaning more toward the top-performing side of the bell curve. Eventually expanding to include more salespeople and sales managers in the program, but when faced with a needed change and improvement in win ratios sooner rather than later, organizations will identify a subset that has the greatest potential for near-term success and train them first.
Best Practice #3: You get what you pay for. So, make sure that you do your due diligence and partner with an organization that has a proven track record of success. Companies looking to truly move the needle avoid short-term solutions that will not deliver the revenue or margin results they were hoping to achieve. This is when companies begin looking at quick-fix solutions or low-cost solutions such as online-only training programs. Online training programs are terrific when structured properly, used as pre-work and post-work, and as a reinforcement tool.
Remember, think investment and not cost. When considering a training partner or building your own program, keep in mind that cutting this budget number might sound like an easy and good place to save some short-term dollars, but when invested properly you could be looking at 10X, 20X, and possibly more than 100X return on your investment.