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Anthony Iannarino
Updated: 59 min 41 sec ago

Don’t Make Cold Calls If You Don’t Want To – Episode 206

Tue, 2017-10-17 22:47

Every day I receieve emails and notes that people are trashing cold calling. A lot of these people don’t make sales call at all. You are always free to make your own decision, but know that your competitor’s will–and they’ll call your clients.

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Speaking Ill of Your Competitor

Tue, 2017-10-17 14:00

My younger sister once won an account and became good friends with the decision-maker she worked with day to day. Each Friday, her competitor would bring donuts to the client, and then sit around and bash our company. As soon as the competitor left, the client would bring the donuts to our staff or call my sister to come get them. They bought one of our teams donuts for months and months, all the while thinking they were making an impact.

One of my clients would routinely meet with my competitors. He’d listen to everything they had to say, much of it an attempt to create doubt about my company. He’d ask them for a proposal, and they would oblige him, believing they were close to a deal. When I visited him, he would hand me a big stack of my competitor’s proposals, including their pricing.

A competitor’s salesperson once called one of my company’s oldest clients. This client had very deep relationships with our company. The competitor told one of our client’s employees that my company was having financial difficulties, that we couldn’t meet payroll, and that they were exposed to a serious risk. When the client heard, she called to tell us what the salesperson had said, having known my company long enough to know that the salesperson was speaking out of turn. I called the salesperson’s manager, asking him to play fair, and he cussed me out. I offered a meeting to discuss how we might handle competing, and he hung up on me.

One client I frequently visited with would get calls from competitors while I was in meetings with him. He would take their calls, put them on speaker phone, and start asking them questions. He thought this very entertaining to ask them about their business, their strategy, and specifically, how they were better than my company while I was sitting in the room.

It is a mistake to believe that you can win hearts and minds by attacking your competitor. When you have no idea how strong the relationship is, you can make a complete fool of yourself, doing more harm than good, and doing nothing to create a real opportunity.

Speaking ill of your competitor is an indication of who you are, not who they are. There are better strategies available to you.

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What Discovery Means Now

Mon, 2017-10-16 14:30

I am working on my third book right now, and I am spending time jotting down my notes about The Commitment to Explore Change and what “discovery” now means as it pertains to sales.

First, in The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, I don’t think I did a good enough job explaining the shift from our discovering something about the client through asking questions to help the client discover something about themselves and their business. This is such a dramatic shift that I believe it deserves much more attention than I gave it. I am going to remedy this, and I am going to be very prescriptive like I was in The Lost Art of Closing.

Second, I haven’t ever shared my evolving view about discovery and the process of change. My views have undergone a radical change, and I am clearer on how much our success in helping others produce results is subject to all kinds of factors.

We spend so much time getting relatively few people’s opinions without spending enough time with people who are going to be affected by the change that we are recommending. Because we have focused on acquiring the view of a few people, we have a very limited view.

We spend too little time actually exploring and building an understanding of what our client is doing and why they are struggling. We are too focused on selling our solution, hen more often than not, there are real changes the client must make to produce the results they need. We are negligent in not trying to understand the root cause of their issues, and that is often what is really necessary for producing the result they need.

Look at a deal you are working on now and tell me how much work you have done to understand their competitive strategy and measured it against what is going on in the world right now. I am not suggesting you do a full SWOT analysis on every client, but real discovery means getting a fuller picture of where they are now and whether or not they are keeping pace or lagging behind the constant, accelerating, disruptive change that is the new normal.

What about the company’s culture? What impact is this going to have on the ability to produce the results the client needs? Right now, I am watching a company with a fear-driven culture where failure and mistakes are punished, and where there is no candor. It is imploding before my eyes, and the culture is so pervasive that it is preventing the company from saving itself.

Yesterday on The Lost Art of Closing Facebook Mastermind Coaching meeting, I shared some of the lenses I use to view individuals and companies. There was a very high level of interest in this discussion, mostly because I don’t often share these lenses, and when I do, it’s usually in a workshop, and I don’t go very deep. This has convinced me to do the work to share this more widely, and it is going to make its way into my third book, which is tentatively titled: The Competitive Displacement Playbook (even though I won’t get to name the book).

Think deeply about what you are discovering and helping others discover. See if you can broaden your perspective and identify the real obstacle to change.

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Never Need to Restart Your Pipeline

Sun, 2017-10-15 14:00

Some companies try to slow sales when they have operational challenges. Others simply take their foot off the gas because things are going well, and they are more concerned with executing for their clients than they are in opportunity creation. Still, others lose momentum because they become apathetic about prospecting and the creation of new opportunities.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest. Regardless of the reason, letting up is an enormous mistake and one that is difficult to correct. It also takes more time and energy than one might believe to restart motion.

If for whatever reason you have a long sales cycle, the work you do to create opportunities in the first quarter is going to determine what your result is like in some future quarter or quarters. Even though you may work very hard to compress the time it takes, it is highly unlikely that you can make up for months without prospecting in the weeks leading up to the end of your quarter. You are not going to find enough prospects with enough of a compelling reason to change to be able to move them now.

When a whole sales organization starts to shift from opportunity creation to opportunity capture, meaning they spend much more of their time working on their existing clients, they become exposed to the risk of going backward when they lose a large client, or when there is an event that strips them of their current revenue. If it’s been years since the sales force was really focused on acquiring new clients, it is going to take a very long time to rebuild that core competency. In some cases, it requires a new sales force.

You never want to be in a position where it is necessary to restart your pipeline. It is easier and more effective to make prospecting and opportunity creation the foundation of what salespeople do because truth be told, it is. The more consistently and effectively you create opportunities, the more consistently you will produce new clients—and new revenue.

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Product Training and Your Sales Kickoff

Sat, 2017-10-14 20:59

Product training is important. You can’t sell without knowing what your solution does, where it fits, how it makes a difference, and why your clients should change what they’re doing. While a sales kickoff provides an opportunity to do some training, product isn’t normally the area where salespeople need help.


If you are going to work on anything, the first place to start is mindset.

I’ve seen good companies get this right, and I’ve seen them get this wrong.

Let’s look at how they get it wrong first. They spend half a day on reviewing the numbers. Let me give you an example. At one SKO, I watched the CEO speak, where he reviewed the numbers and talked about shareholders. Then the CFO spoke and did a deeper dive into the numbers. Right after his speech, the head of sales reviewed the same numbers, just broken down by category.

At another SKO, I watched a senior VP announce 9 products. After I spoke, the salesforce spent a half hour in 9 breakout sessions to explain the new products, and that checked the box for training. That isn’t training.

One client I have spoken for a number of times gets things right. They spend an outsized amount of the time speaking to their team about who they are, why they do what they do, how it makes a difference, and why it is important that they deliver the value that only they can deliver. They are working on improving the engagement of their team. They are using the chance to get the team together to build an army of believers.

Another company I have spoken to more than once makes their clients the center of every presentation and conversation, using their stories and sometimes having them speak to share how what the sales force and company does helps them with their mission.

Skill Sets

Most of the product training that is done doesn’t really help the sales force to sell more. There are exceptions, especially for companies with complicated solutions. But generally, this isn’t why or how salespeople lose.

Salespeople lose because they lack the skill sets.

They don’t know how to prospect, or they don’t do enough of it. Improving this one skill improves results more than product.

They don’t know how to control the sales process, leaving their client to try to figure out what comes next and how to improve their results. Commitment-gaining is a critical skill set and salespeople are missing this skill.

Whenever I hear sales leaders suggest their salespeople can’t negotiate, I push back, telling them that I believe that their salespeople are terrific negotiators. The only thing I would change is that I would have them negotiate with the client instead of negotiating a concession with their sales manager.

Selling is more difficult than ever, and in many ways, selling is in decline. In many ways, we are getting worse. A good part of the reason for poor salesmanship is the complete lack of development in the new competencies the sales force needs, like commitment-gaining, controlling the sales process, and building consensus.

If product is allowed to crowd out these outcomes, you can have a really nice meeting, show off your new products, and send that same sales force back out into the world no better equipped to create value or deliver results than they were when they showed up.

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Reality Is Even More Persistent

Fri, 2017-10-13 13:50

Reality is persistent. It is extremely inflexible. It doesn’t change because you don’t like it, nor does it change because you find it difficult, inconvenient, problematic, and challenging.

You may want things to be different than they are, but reality is unaware and unconcerned with your wants and needs. You want things that are difficult to be easier. You want the outcomes you need without having to work so hard to achieve them. Reality does not change and is wholly unresponsive to what you want.

The challenges you face may be personally and/or professionally difficult for you. Dealing with them can be stressful, and it can require emotional energy that would be placed somewhere else. Reality doesn’t respond to your emotions, and a heightened emotional state produces no greater or lesser result. Reality is unmoved by your emotions.

Even though you may see reality as a problem, it isn’t. Reality is a neutral party. It doesn’t treat you any different than it treats anyone else. It is what it is, and it doesn’t care who bumps up against it, nor does it change because someone has more money, greater smarts, or some other perceived advantage.

Because you cannot change reality, producing a different result means aligning yourself with reality.

Reality is not what is stopping you from producing the result you want, and you know this is true because other people are producing that result right now, in spite of reality. Their approach is different than yours, and it’s likely that their strategies are also different.

The challenges that you face right now have been faced by others before you, many of whom found a way to overcome those challenges while dealing with the very same reality that you share. If reality what was really stopping you, then it would have stopped everyone else before you. It’s like gravity; it applies to all people equally, and it makes no exceptions and has no preference.

No matter how persistent you are, reality is even more persistent. If you want things to change, you have to change.

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The One Area Where It Really Pays to Be Different

Thu, 2017-10-12 14:00

It is important to be different in a way that makes a difference. There are all kinds of differentiation strategies. You can differentiate by having the lowest price as a way to attract customers who only perceive price as value. You can differentiate by having a better product, with features and benefits that are far beyond your competition, differentiating on what makes you unique. There are strategies for explaining why what you sell is different and how your clients benefit from those differences, and they can help you win business.

As beneficial as those differences are, there is one area where it is even more important to be different, and that area is salesmanship.

There is a reason why salespeople who have higher prices and who do not have the very best product or service win business. Most of the time, that reason is that they are better at selling than the salespeople and sales organizations against whom they compete for business.

If you want to tilt the playing field in your direction, the most important differentiation is within your control. You can:

  • Improve your willingness and your ability to create new opportunities by spending more time refining your approach to prospecting. The commitment for time is now one of the most difficult commitments to gain, and those who outperform here generally outperform when it comes to their overall results. No deal is closed that is not first opened, and creating opportunities is part of salesmanship. This is a critical differentiation strategy.
  • Your business acumen and your situational knowledge is now a defining differentiator when it comes to salesmanship. It is the “advice” half of the two-part recipe that makes one a “trusted advisor,” with “trust” being the other half. If you want to be different, investing here provides exceptional returns. It isn’t all that difficult to develop in this area. You need only to read, study, and interview people who know more than you, take account of what you know, and develop a few themes. It’s easy to create a gap here if you are willing to work while your peer group plays.
  • Knowing how to sell is a differentiator, and it produces an enormous difference in your results. If you want clients to see and acknowledge a difference, you need to be able to help them identify the reasons they should change, understand how they should change, what trade-offs they may need to consider, and know what commitments they need to make to further the process of change to pull yourself out of the pack.

There is a reason that some salespeople do tremendously well while selling commodities and other salespeople struggle even when they have an offering that is clearly differentiated and superior to the alternatives. As much as you may want to believe that the product, service, or solution is what needs to be different, the real differentiator is salesmanship.

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Control What Is In Your Control – Episode 205

Thu, 2017-10-12 06:23

If much in your business is outside of your control, you need to be wicked gooad at what is in your control. You can communicate. You can hustle. And you can care!

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When to Move Fast

Wed, 2017-10-11 16:04

In sales fast is slow, and slow is fast. The central idea here is that moving faster than your client, putting the transaction above the relationship and their needs slows you down. So does skipping steps and doing sloppy work.

That said, there is no reason to take more time than is necessary to do anything. You do not benefit from taking longer than is necessary to create and win opportunities, and your clients do not receive greater value by your dragging out the process and preventing them from getting better results now.

If you can create new opportunities faster by spending more time prospecting, it makes sense to do more of that work now to pull those results forward in time. You gain nothing by taking more time to do what might be done in less, especially when it comes to building a pipeline.

If you can compress the sales cycle by controlling the process and gaining the necessary commitments without allowing that process to be slowed down by your lack of intention, then you move results forward in time for both you and your clients.

There is something else that you must do to pull results forward. You must be highly effective. You have to develop your mindset and skill sets to improve the work you do for and with your clients and prospects. You must develop the business acumen and situational knowledge to be more valuable to your clients, and to produce that value for them sooner, as early in the process as possible. You have to be someone who is trusted, and who can make recommendations that allow the people you serve to stay connected to you as you help them move forward to a better future state.

Most of all, you must be conscious of time. If you want to make a difference, you have less time available than you believe. It is enough, but only if you invest it wisely.

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