Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Great Leadership Book + Two Business Ideas


Click HERE to learn more about my new Consultative Sales training course and use promo code 45OFF to get a 45% discount!!

Consultative Sales Excellence  45

 

How To Increase Your Sales Success

shutterstock_46908313I have been teaching consultative sales for the past 20 years and in my opinion three of the most critical skills necessary to be superb as a salesperson are: asking highly focused and thoughtful questions, being an intense listener and then taking excellent notes. Great questions allow you to gather the essential information needed to understand the customer’s problems, create the exact right solution and close the deal. However, if you ask great questions and don’t listen carefully and write superb notes, you might as well not ask any questions at all.

Let me help you understand how important listening is. Think about the average value of one of your larger sales, then determine how much time (in minutes) you actually spend in front of the key decision-maker during the sales process. Then divide the total value of the sale by the number of minutes and it will give you how much money is on the line for every 60 seconds you’re talking to the key decision-maker. For some of my clients that number has been in the thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars per minute. The number might be much smaller for you, or it might be quite large, but either way it is essential that you be incredibly focused on your customer during the brief amount of time you get to spend with them. One of the best ways to demonstrate that you are paying attention and truly care about what they are saying is to be absolutely fantastic at taking notes. Again, if you ask a great question and they give you an in-depth and detailed answer – and you don’t write any notes – you are telling the customer not to answer any more of your questions because it will be a waste of their time. (**As someone who has owned several businesses I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve had a salesperson sit in front of me while I explained my problem or need in detail – and they didn’t write a single note – nothing. Which is exactly what they got from me, nothing. No sale, no deal, and no invitation for a follow-up appointment).

Here are some of the things I recommend to increase your listening and note-taking effectiveness and clearly demonstrate that you are focused solely on your customer.

  1. Turn off all electronic equipment that you do not plan to actually use in the meeting. No phone, no iPad, no computer – nothing that can distract you.
  2. Bring a professional notebook such as a Moleskine to write your notes in. Unless you are a phenomenal typist and can keep great eye contact while typing notes, it is better to use a pen and paper and transfer the notes over later.
  3. Bring an extra pen.
  4. As you are listening and taking notes use good body language and eye contact to show your customer you are fully engaged in the conversation. If you are selling over the phone use of verbal cues to let the customer know your listening and encourage them to continue talking.
  5. As the customer is talking repeat what they are saying over and over again in your head as you are taking notes. This will shut out any mind chatter you have and help you remember what your prospect is telling you because even though they have said it only once, you have heard it several times in your own mind which makes your memory and recall dramatically better.
  6. I have created a number of special icons that I use to help me focus in on the most important information in my notes. For example, I put a # next to where the customer gives me numbers, and a $ next to where those numbers represent money. I draw small set of clock hands next to anything that deals with time. When a client emphasizes a specific point I put a big star next to it, if they mention it again I put another star – and another if they talk about it even more. I write a ? when there is something I need to come back and ask for more detail on. Then, at the end of the meeting (or phone call) after the client has shared a significant amount of information with me, I can quickly go back over my notes and say something like:

“I’ve listened to you very carefully and from what you have shared with me it looks like you have three major concerns: 1, 2 and 3 (the three items that I put several big stars next to) that are costing you about XX dollars (based on everyplace I have written a $) and are causing you to waste about XX hours a week (based on where I drew little clocks) and you’d like to try to get this fixed by XX day (based on where I put the #’s). Does that sound about right to you?

Typically the client is overwhelmed by the quality of the notes I’ve taken and the information I can summarize and give back to them. I have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that I am listening, paying attention, interested in what they are telling me and because I’ve written it down in such great detail I will be able to remember it and develop the exact right solution based on my understanding and analysis.

  1. Then as soon as I get out of the meeting or end the phone call I immediately take out my notes and dictate (I use the voice recognition software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking) a clean and thoughtful summary of everything that was discussed and agreed to during the meeting.
  2. I then send a copy of that summary/call recap to my client to confirm that I’m on target, that I have not missed anything important and that we are in full agreement on next steps.
  3. Lastly, I post my call recap/summary into my client’s file so that I will have it to review days, weeks, months or years in the future. I still have notes from phone calls I had with clients more than 10 years ago and they are amazed that I can go back and share with them key things we discussed a decade ago.

I will tell you from experience that if you use the tools and recommendations I have listed above it will have a significant positive impact on your sales success. Everything I’ve mentioned is common knowledge, every salesperson knows that they should do this, but very, very few actually do. When you conduct a professional sales meeting, asking superb questions, being a highly focused listener and taking incredibly thorough and detailed notes – you clearly differentiate yourself from all of the other salespeople your customer is meeting and create a level of trust and professional respect that is difficult, if not impossible, for your competition to copy.

I hope you find these ideas of value and that they help you close more big deals!

 

Sales Advice in 60 Seconds

Special 20% discount promo code: JSPENCE

Cdm5X7WUkAA6XIR

 

 

 

 

Three Great Books and a Fantastic (Free) Sales Webinar

The Sales Webinar has already passed — it was earlier in the year.

 

My Best Sales Advice for 2016

My best sales advice for 2016 (or any year for that matter) is to make this the year of extreme curiosity. If you are selling a product that requires some level of understanding your customer, then you need to stop thinking of yourself as a salesperson and truly get into the mindset of a consultant. So, here is a simple four-step process for you to be much more successful in 2016.

ONE:  Practice the art of asking superb questions. Think deeply about the specific information you need to obtain in order to offer the perfect solution to your customer. Reflect on the information you want to receive from your customer when they answer your question, what do you want them to say, what specifically do you want them to tell you? Remember, that you don’t have an unlimited number of questions, so make sure that every question counts and helps you collect the critical information that will allow you understand the customer’s real needs and move the sale forward. To help you with this, I suggest you create a list of the key information you need to gather from almost every client. For example, in a business-to-business sale you might need to know:

  • What is the timeframe to make this decision?
  • Who will be involved in the decision-making process?
  • What is your budget for this project?
  • What are your selection criteria?
  • What other companies are you looking at to help you with this project?
  • What are the top issues that you hope that we can help you with?
  • What are the financial implications if you can’t find the exact right solution?
  • What would the financial upside be if we can deliver the exact right solution?
  • What would the exact right solution look like to you?

These are just a few examples, but take some time to sit down and write out the 10 most important pieces of information you have to get from every client and then write an elegant and focused question to get the client to give you the specific information you need.

TWO: Once you ask an excellent question, you must then be an intense listener. Make the person you’re talking to the most important person on the face of the earth while you are sitting there talking to them. Forget about your cell phone, forget about your next appointment, forget about your quota,  forget about your golf game this weekend – give them your total and undivided attention.

THREE: As you are listening intently, take highly detailed notes. Put a star next all important ideas, list out their buying criteria, and underline key budget numbers. Take notes that allow you to perfectly summarize and paraphrase what the client has shared with you to demonstrate that you have listened very carefully to them and understand their needs, wants, wishes, desires and concerns.

FOUR: Now, and only now, have you earned the right to start talking about your product or service!!!

I have met so many salespeople that do the opposite of what I am recommending here. They come in and immediately pitch their product, ask very few if any questions, and don’t write any notes. This is why 88% of senior executives say that the number one reason they won’t see a salesperson is: They waste my time!

If you follow the four steps I have listed above, you will be seen as a consultant and peer that is there to learn as much as they possibly can about their client so that they can deliver a true value-added solution at a reasonable (not lowest) price.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful, I very much look forward to your comments. – John

Virtual Sales Kickoff 2016

Click HERE to register

Banner 1

The Top 4 Business Trends of 2015

Last day of 2015I have literally just walked off the stage from my last presentation/workshop for 2015. It’s been an extremely busy year with more than 200 days on the road, zigzagging across the United States and Canada and delivering programs in Australia, New Zealand and most recently Poland. As I look back over the year here are a few big takeaways that I think you might find of interest.

 

  1. Culture and talent are critical. In most of the businesses I worked in this year the single biggest place where they could reduce waste, reduce costs and increase revenues and profits was in the quality of the people on their team and the culture in the organization. I believe that companies need to put more focus on hiring, growing and retaining top talent – and building a winning culture of engaged, satisfied and loyal employees who are highly results driven, customer focused and accountable. To me, these should be major strategic objectives in almost every business.

 

  1. Lack of accountability and disciplined execution are the biggest problems I see in almost every organization worldwide. There is no shortage of bright, sharp, talented people who can develop highly innovative strategies and ideas – but there is a huge shortage of people that can take those ideas and effectively turn them into results in the marketplace. Again, another place to see major revenue growth and profitability in many companies is focusing more on execution.

 

  1. As I look at the programs I was asked to deliver, there is a clear pattern of a handful of workshops and keynote speeches that the majority of my clients asked me to focus on:
Advanced leadership, especially leading organizations through change

I delivered this program for a number of companies whose industries were undergoing massive change and were challenged to get their employees not just to embrace change, but to drive change.

Winning culture

Many of my clients requested that I help their organizations learn more about how to create higher levels of engagement, commitment, teamwork and collaboration – what I have come to call creating and “ownership mentality” throughout the organization.

Business excellence/strategic thinking

I spent a good bit of time this year helping companies take a hard look at their current operations, benchmark against best practices and fine-tune their strategies to be successful in the future.

Consultative sales

Although I started my career doing high-level sales training, I stepped away from it for a few years, but now many of my clients are asking me to help their entire organization become a sales organization focused on being trusted advisers to their customers.

My recommendation would be to look closely at your organization and make sure that none of these are areas that you are neglecting.

 

  1. Lastly, I am becoming more and more aware that building a strong network of people that want to help and support you (because you are helping and supporting them) and then using that network to generate strong positive word-of-mouth… should also be one of your major strategic objectives. It has become obvious to me that social media, combined with social proof, are the future of referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. But all effective networking and word-of-mouth marketing is based on, delivering massive value and being so incredibly remarkable at what you do…that people want to remark about you, that is, tell other people about how great you are. Just trying to build up your email list or the number of contacts you have on LinkedIn is not an effective strategy, it only works when the connections are created through trust and strongly demonstrated competence.

So those are some of the major things I noticed about 2015, which means they will probably continue to be big issues in 2016. Are you seeing anything different?

I very much look forward to your thoughts – John

.

My Top 10 Business Success Tips

untitled10In November of this year, I will be the guest of the American Consulate in Poland in order to deliver a number of classes on entrepreneurship and business excellence at several universities in Kraków. Today, I received an email from a contact in Russia that is interested in possibly hosting a few business seminars in Moscow, and in that email, he asked me for a “bullet point” list of business tips to put in their newsletter to promote the events. So I sat down and tried to come up with the ten most important things I could offer, and I thought the list turned out pretty cool, so here it is.

John Spence’s Top 10 Ideas for Business Success

  1. The quality of the people that you can get, grow, and keep on your team will determine the success of your business in the long run. Other companies can copy your products, distribution, and marketing and beat you on price, but if you have top talent that is loyal, engaged, and excited about working for your company, then you have a huge market advantage.
  2. Whoever owns the “Voice Of the Customer” owns the marketplace. The company that listens to the customer the best and understands their needs, wants, fears, desires, and wishes – this company will be able to create a massive competitive advantage for itself.
  3. The formula for business excellence is: (Talent + Culture + Extreme Customer Focus) x Disciplined Execution = Business Excellence
  4. One of the keys to success in any organization is having a clear, compelling, tightly focused and well-communicated vision and strategy for growth.
  5. Culture = Cash. The number one factor for having highly engaged, satisfied, and loyal customers is having highly engaged, satisfied, and loyal employees. Remember this: the customer’s experience will never exceed the employee’s experience.
  6. Ambiguity Breeds Mediocrity. If you want to create a culture with high levels of both personal and mutual accountability, it is essential that you establish clear, specific, measurable, and binary goals.
  7. In every business, there are a handful of Moments Of Truth. These are the three, four, or five MOST important interactions with your customer on which you must deliver flawlessly, every single time for every single customer, if you want to grow a successful business.
  8. To be successful in the future, the rate of internal innovation must exceed the rate of external innovation (II>EI). As a business, you have to innovate, create, strategize, and implement better than anyone you compete against in the marketplace. As an individual, this also means that you have to continuously improve every single day in order to out-innovate the people with whom you directly compete.
  9. Don’t worry about the competition; instead, worry constantly about being better than you were yesterday and about absolutely delighting your customers. This is how you win in business.
  10. You become what you focus on and like the people you spend time with. Whatever you fill your brain with and whomever you choose to spend your time with will determine what your life will look like a decade from now.

I truly welcome your additions to this list. It would be fun to get this list up to fifty or even one hundred business tips.

Grow Your Business With This Master Key to Success

In one of the greatest self-help books ever written, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” the author states that one of the Universal Master Keys to Success is creating mastermind groups, which are small groups of experts, advisers, and mentors that focus on assisting you with your business, career, and life. I could not agree more, as I’ve stated many times that the most important thing I’ve ever learned is this: you become what you focus on and like the people with whom you spend time. Along those same lines, it is also my firm belief that another Universal Master Keys to Success that will absolutely grow your business is obtaining referrals.

The Power of Referrals

In his wonderful book, “The Referral Engine”, my good friend John Jantsch points out that nearly 80% of all NEW clients and NEW business brought into most companies come directly from referrals. However, only about 23% of businesses have any kind of organized referral system. Do you, like me, see the huge opportunity here to grow your business?

According to Jantsch, the power of glitzy advertising and elaborate marketing campaigns is on the wane; instead, word-of-mouth referrals are what drive business today. People trust the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague, or even stranger with similar tastes over anything thrust at them by a faceless company. Therefore, the goal must be to harness the power of referrals in order to ensure that steady flow of new customers that will grow your business, and then to keep those customers happy, loyal, and engaged so that they refer your business to even more customers. This is the very definition of a virtuous cycle.

The Referral Engine

Some of John’s recommendations for how to build the referral engine that will grow your business include:

  • Talk with your customers, not at them. Thanks to social networking sites, companies of any size have the opportunity to engage with their customers on their home turf as never before, but the key to engagement is listening.
  • The sales team is the most important part of your marketing team. Sales people are the company’s main link to customers, and customers are the main source of referrals. Therefore, getting your sales team on board with your referral strategy is critical.
  • Educate your customers. Referrals are only helpful if they are given to the right people. Educate your customers about to whom they should be talking.

The Referral Cycle

The secret to generating referrals to grow your business lies in understanding what Jantsch calls the “Customer Referral Cycle”: the way customers refer others to your company who, in turn, generate even more referrals. Businesses can ensure a healthy referral cycle by moving customers and prospects along this path of action: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. If everyone in an organization keeps this sequence in mind and focuses on it daily, with every customer and prospect, then your business will generate referrals like a well-oiled machine, and that well-oiled machine will grow your business.

Let me give you an example from my own business. When a new client hires me to do a workshop or deliver a speech, at the beginning of the process, I say to them:

I am totally going to work my butt off to deliver the highest quality program I possibly can for your attendees. So, if I deliver something that significantly exceeds your expectations, then I’m going to ask you to send a strong personal referral to a minimum of ten of your colleagues, letting them know about what a wonderful job I’ve done for you and suggesting that they consider hiring me for their next workshop or speech. If I absolutely earn that, will you agree to send the referrals for me?”

I have never had a client say no to this request, especially since it is all based on me first delivering a truly superb speech or workshop. So, if I hit it out of the park, they are willing to send my name along to 10, 20 or 100 of their business associates, knowing that if any one of them hire me, I would work just as hard for them. It makes the client feel good to refer business my way and confident that if one of their friends takes their advice, I will make sure that they are 100% satisfied, which is a true win-win for all involved.

The Referral Technique

I also have another referral technique that works extremely well. If a client or even an attendee of one of my speeches or workshops approaches me after I have just finished my presentation and says, “Wow John, that was a fantastic speech. Thanks for all of the great ideas and information”, then I immediately say to them:

Thank you so much for that very kind compliment: I appreciate that a great deal. Actually, the best way you can thank me would be to tell a whole bunch of people you know about how much you enjoyed my program and how much value you took away from it. In eighteen years of doing this for a living, I have learned that 99.9% of all of my new business comes directly from happy customers telling their friends and business colleagues about the work I do. It would be great if you could take five minutes to send out a handful of emails to anyone you feel would enjoy the sort of presentation you just saw.”

Having a set response like this, that is well thought out, professional, and honest, has been one of the most powerful referral tools I have ever used. Do you have something like this for your business? How do you currently ask your best customers, in a professional, clear, focused and comfortable way (NOT a memorized script!), for them to please send you several dozen targeted referrals?

The Referral Template

These questions bring me to my next point, which is: it also helps if you make it really, really easy for people to send a great referral your way. As John pointed out, the first step in this process is to help your customers clearly understand WHO is a good referral for you and who represents the kind of clients you want to gather. After that, you need to make it almost effortless for them to refer you to lots and lots of the right people so that they can help you grow your business. For example, if you have a client who is enthusiastic about sending referrals to you, you might simply type out a short note that they can use as a template. Here is an example of what I send to my customers when they agree to send out an email on my behalf:

Dear ________,

I hope this note finds you doing very well. I recently listened to a really fantastic speaker who said that if he hit a total homerun, we should thank him by telling 15 to 20 of our colleagues about his work. Well, because he did such an awesome job, I wanted to honor his request. I am writing this note to highly recommend John Spence. His session was fast-paced, engaging, fun, and full of truly useful information. Here’s a link to his website so you can take a look and see what sort of programs he presents. He does a really super job: www.johnspence.com

I simply send this template to my client and ask them to look over, customize, or change it in any way that makes them comfortable, and then e-mail it to anyone they feel would find value in the work I do. Some clients don’t send any emails; some clients send a handful; and a few very special clients send it on to dozens and dozens of people. I promise you, there is no advertising or marketing program in the world as powerful as a happy client sending several dozen emails to their clients and colleagues to strongly recommend your services – it is absolutely pure gold!

The Growth of Referrals

So there you have it. Obtaining referrals is a Universal Master Key of Success that will grow your business. However, you can’t just sit back and “hope” that your clients will refer you: you need to turn your business into referral engine! And how you do that? By following these steps:

  • Talk with your customers. Use social networks to engage your customers and generate referrals.
  • Get everyone in your business involved in asking for referrals.
  • Help your customer understand WHO is a good referral for you.
  • Make it incredibly easy for your customers to give you referrals.
  • Ask for referrals ALL the time.
  • And most important – do such amazingly awesome work that you truly EARN tons of referrals!!!

I hope you found this article helpful and that you put these ideas that will grow your business to good use!

Wishing you every possible happiness and success,

John Spence