Don’t Let Your Brain Screw Up Your Sale

Hi readers,

I have often been asked by my mentees after a f_ck_d up sale on ….”where did we go wrong!!!???”

I did EVERYTHING that you taught me…EVERYTHING to the “T”, and yet the sale went to my competitor !!


When it comes to success in selling, your brain can be your own worst enemy.

If you’re like most sales stars, your brain has a tendency to chatter away about the future, when having a conversation with a customer.  Even though you’re trying to listen, your brain is sending out all sorts of subliminal messages to your subconscious like:

  • “If I don’t make my quota for the month, my boss is gonna kill me…( Really…ask yourself this…are your KRAs all about numbers??? tch tch numbers are only 50% of your KRA my sales pro!!)
  • “If I don’t make this sale, I won’t be able to buy that Versace dress from my girlfriend…” (Man, get your priorities right, and then understand that those who love you will love you whether you got them that dress or NOT!!)
  • “I hope this guy doesn’t tell a boring story, because I’ve got a flight in two hours…” (Patience is a virtue in Good salesmanship my friend!! didnt you know this..)
  • “What should say say next, in response to what he’s saying now…” (Being presumptuous are we …)
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

This mental chatter frantically pulls your attention away from the customer and towards your own priorities and goals.  That can be fatal to actually making the sale because you’ll miss cues and clues about what the CUSTOMER wants.

In short, the CUSTOMER will cease to be king in your subconscious and you will inevitable wander AWAY from a sale that YOU THOUGHT was in your bag!!

The solution is to treat selling more as a process and less as an achievement.  Here’s how:

  • STEP #1: Open your posture. Body language and engaged listening are inter-related. When the customer is talking, you’ll be more interested, and seem more interested, if your expression and posture indicates that you are interested.  This is not trickery; it’s everyday human behavior.
  • STEP #2: Look AT the customer. When you’re thinking of the future, or something that you’re going to say, your eyes will lose focus or drift slightly upwards.  Keeping your eyes FOCUSED on the customer (without staring through the customer) forces your mind into the moment.
  • STEP #3: Be aware of your breathing. Because you’re human, it’s nearly impossible to keep all of your thoughts away from yourself.  Rather than listen to your internal chatter, become aware of the sound and flow of your breathing, which won’t distract from your focus on the customer.
  • STEP #4: Stop to take notes. When the customer says something that you’re sure is important, rather than breaking your focus by glancing down and making a note, ask for a moment’s pause, and then make a note.  Segmenting the two activities ensures that you’re present during the conversation.
  • STEP #5: Trust your instincts. You may believe you need to analyze everything that’s going on in the conversation in order to come up with the “right” response.  However, you’re more likely to say the “right” thing if you’re actively listening and then responding in a way that “feels” right.
  • STEP #6: Be patient with yourself. Selling is the study of a lifetime, so you can’t expect to grasp every concept or master every technique immediately.  Fortunately, what’s most important in sales is the combination of intention and attention.  Make the sale about the customer.  It’s really that simple.

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Getting excited about Cold Calls!

Hi “cold feet Claude”

Is cold calling getting the better of you lately?

Is , trying to sell a product or service to an unknown and unqualified prospect getting to be so confronting that it freezes you  into a state of inaction? Are you daunted and stopped dead in your tracks at the prospect of making cold calls?

Well , Claude, you are not alone, and I have been there!!

Sadly, as the need for cold calling frequently accompanies the launch of a new business, or the launch of a new offering, such inaction

(caused due to numerous reasons)  can have dire consequences for your personally and definitely for the business.

Let’s try to fix it by looking at what actually causes our dislike and then introduce some new strategies- shall we?

  • Not surprisingly, the biggest reaction that’s generated by cold calling is the fear of failure. We know the incidence of sale is extremely low; we know the chances of even getting to the decision-maker are slim; is it therefore any wonder we are fearful of failure?
  • Running a close second, is the fear of rejection. No one likes to be rejected at the best of times and less so when the rejection is at best, abrupt and at times, downright rude.
  • The third fear is that of giving offence. It’s natural we don’t want to be seen as a nuisance — after all, this is not the atmosphere we look to foster with a potential customer.

So, we know cold calling has a low success rate; we know it generates fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of offending. How can we combat this and move forward with any degree of positive action?

I reckon the answer lies in our measurements of success.

Imagine you set yourself the goal of making twenty-five cold calls to set up meetings to promote your business.

Now let’s assume that twenty-three of the calls are met with either rejection or total failure to connect with a decision-maker.

In this scenario, the chances are you’d be feeling pretty miserable. You might feel like you’ve failed in twenty-three out of twenty-five of the calls. And you’d be right.

Imagine instead, you had approached the exercise with this goal:

‘To attract people who are genuinely interested in hearing about my work’

By choosing your language carefully and not linking your goal to a finite number of calls or sales, it is possible to switch the emphasis away from the fears of what may be coming (failure, rejection, offence) and more towards your sense of what you’re actually hearing.

By listening out for those ‘who are genuinely interested’ it is possible to quickly disqualify anyone appearing unsuitable or disinterested. Through these means, you’ll move more quickly to the next call and with a greater sense of purpose. What’s more, you’ll do so without being rendered inactive through fear.

Too easy? Try it and you’ll see why successful telesales people are able to make call after call, seemingly totally unfazed by any of the classic fears.

Confession– This piece is motivated by a patch in my life as a sales professional when I went through this rut myself and it was a friend of mine who worked in a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) firm who put me through the paces and taught me how to overcome my fears on cold calling.

This piece also helps young sales reps to understand how to qualify a serious lead through the process of cold calling, which is very important!


The 10 Immutable Rules of Sales Success today!

Hi readers,

This blog is the result of constant badgering by my sales team, when I was P&L head of a CPG startup business in Africa, from 2007 till 2011.

My senior sales managers would hound me to “extract” every bit of knowledge to comprehend the elements that ensure “sure shot” success…

I was exasperated to the point of repeating myself a thousand times that …guys there is no simple mantra for sales success…a fast paced , dynamic business eco-system means that us folks in the field have to evolve into super smart, super flexible , quick thinking and quicker acting professionals and to leverage our basic selling skills to close our deals successfully.

BUT…on closer introspection, it was apparent that there were some basic fundamental rules that governed sales success across business eco-systems, irrespective of how the economy was today and what it will evolve into, tomorrow.

Here is my take on what I believe are the 10 ( dare is say immutable ) rules for sales success!

  • RULE #1: Have a sales philosophy that emphasizes relationship building.

Relationship building skills, with customers, both internal ( your boss, his boss, the production head, the finance head, the CFO, the account head, the logistics head etc) and external, is MOST CRUCIAL to your sales success. Imbibe this skills, work on it life long, and leverage it strategically and you will succeed.

  • RULE #2: Value the relationship more than making your quota.

Work on your relationship management and development skills- relationships last you a life time, and they are PRECIOUS in sales- take it from me, I have 18 years selling experience in some very inhospitable business environments, and succeeding against all odds!

  • RULE #3: Consider yourself and your firm as the best at what you do.

Be proud of what you have achieved as a sales professional and you will have generated positive aura around yourself. MOST important, believe that the firm that has employed you IS THE BEST IN ITS CLASS AND CATEGORY…( even if the CNN, WSJ rankings tell you otherwise!!). You have to sincerely believe , that you are a game changer, a winner and best in class performer, and once you have taken this route, your firm will automatically be the best place there ever was! Winning can be positive and infectious ….

  • RULE #4: Achieve a perfect job of delivering what you promised.

Perfection comes from life learning, constant improvements and practical application in different challenges that you address as a sales rep every day. Practice makes perfect, and perfection ensures that your delivery is first class every time.

  • RULE #5: Provide absolutely impeccable service after the sale.

After sales service is the success mantra of every product or service based business, BUT many times, that level of service after sale, that the client expects , is wanting. Learn to pick the slack on behalf of your other team members, and go the extra mile to serve your client , even at your own cost- not only would you have created genuine opportunity for customer delight, BUT would have served your firm well!! The satisfaction that you would have achieved after this would be worth many awards!

  • RULE #6: Help the customer build the customer’s own business.

Go beyond selling a simple product or the service- consciously evolve into a solutions sales specialist, who is able to work in a matrix, complex organization, and develop the sensitivity and perspective to understand FIRST from the customers point of view, BEFORE getting headlong into a sales pitch- believe me , all traditional businesses in B2B and B2C can be valued added for your client as a “solution” and not simply as a product or a service- do this , and you will have a client and customer for life.

  • RULE #7: Think end-of-time friendships not end-of-month totals.

Go back to Rule # 2, Relationships, first, then evolved to a life long friendship, if you implement Rule # 6. When your clients ( both internal as well external) see how you are different from the rest of the sales team, are able to think out of box, are analytical , as opposed to simply quota driven and commission driven, YOU ensure your longevity in the firm! mark my words…

  • RULE #8: Define your niche and position yourself as the expert.

Regularly conduct critical self assessment, based on what your career plans are, and see that in the context of current business eco-systems, as also the predicted and likely business eco-systems of the future. Read deep and read well and talk to those who have been in your field of work long before you ever thought of working in sales, pick on their brains, learn from them, and re invent yourself with the changing times- you would not have to call your self an expert, your clients, and peers will!!

  • RULE #9: Translate what you offer into the customer’s business results.

Again, evolve into a solutions sales professional as opposed to a quota driven sales jock- understand the value that your product or service currently offers its clientele, assess that offer versus your competitors and replacements, analyse, yours firms comparative and competitive advantages, and use that insight to re-define the offer to your client, ensuring that you peg that offer directly to your clients business results ( increase in profit , by reducing up front cost, as also total cost of ownership over a life time!!)- get your number crunching skills upto speed and you would be well on your way to the sales hall of fame!

  • RULE #10: Remember that the road to success is paved with setbacks.

There is no sure shot to success that will not have a setback or two- setbacks are like wake up calls, and the mature sales rep will learn from that episode, imbibe into his system, and develop the capability to NEVER REPEAT THAT mistake twice. The less repetition you have in your career, the more likely you are to succeed as a sales star!!

Top 5 Dirty Tricks Customers Play on Sales Reps- Trick Number 4

Hi readers,

I hope you have been enjoying these blogs dealing with how some customers play mind tricks with us sales reps!

Do take out time to read the last 3 blogs, on the same subject…

Now lets talk about this trick that customers play with us….


False Cold Feet

  • Explanation: During the final negotiations, the prospect pretends to question the wisdom of the deal.
  • Example: “I realized we’ve been working on this for a long time, but we’re not really sure that this is the right thing for us to do at this time.”
  • Their Hidden Agenda: They’re trying to scare you into thinking you’ll lose the deal so that you’ll offer some concessions.
  • Your Strategy: Determine whether there’s a real problem.  If so, roll back the sales cycle; if not, push through.
  • What YOU Say: “Exactly what is making you question the deal?”
  • What Will Happen: If (as is likely) the objection isn’t real, the negotiation will proceed as before.
  • Warning: If the objection IS real, you’ll need to step back from the negotiation process and return to an earlier stage in your sales cycle.

From my little experience, this trick is not real in majority of cases, and the way that I handled this trick was simple.

Dont react to this obvious shock to begin with-  maintain and calm demeanor and immediately inform your boss of what happened.

Walk away from the final negotiation table, clearly mentioning to the customer that when ever they are ready, the negotiated terms would have to be re-visited; do inform the client that while the terms can be fast tracked since a lot has already been invested in the engagement over so many months, but a sweet deal cannot be guaranteed under the present circumstances ( postponement of the decision).

On the way out, tell them that a window of 24 hours is open for a rethink on this decision by the client and that the file would be kept “hot” until that deadline. Be polite, BUT be firm and in many cases, the client does get the message that you meant every word you said, and he will in all probability call you up in the next 24 hours.

Try it and let me know if this worked for you.