The Sales Leader

Cutting Edge Strategies for Sales Leaders by Colleen Francis

Winning the Battle Against Burnout

Hard to believe its the end of the summer. Its been a busy one at Engage – I managed just 1 week of vacation this year. For most of us, fall is the crazy season. That’s why I thought this article by my friend Mike Staver was well timed.

Check out Winning the Battle Against Burnout in the New York Times and let me know what you think. I have already applied 2 the ideas Mike outlines for ensuring we stay passionate engaged and energized. I am also sure that many of you will love the tip on taking power naps…..In fact maybe its time for me to do that myself right now!

Have a super long weekend. I’ll be back next week with another “Lesson from the Road”

A Question From Annie

Today I’ll take a quick break from the “lessons from the road” series to answer a question from a blog reader:

Dear Colleen,

I have been told by my manager that I need to ask questions during a sales call. He thinks my sales performance will improve if I send more time questioning and less time explaining our product to the customer. I am willing to give this a try because I have not been as successful as I would have liked so far. Specifically I have been told to ask more expanding and clarifying questions. I am not sure what he means by this, can you help?

Thanks, Annie

Dear Annie,

First, congratulations on being willing to try something new! This is the first, and most critical step towards greater success.

Without knowing very much about your situation and product lines, I can tell you that I think your manager is on the right track. One of the most common mistakes sales people make is that, at the first sign that a customer has a problem we can solve, we stop asking questions and start pitching our product. What we should be doing instead is taking this as our cue to ask even more questions.

Expanding and clarifying questions are typically used to gather more information, once you’ve discovered an issue or problem that the customer wants to discuss. Learning how to use these questions effectively can make the difference between being an average performer, and a sales star.

Expanding questions encourage the customer to expand or elaborate on what they’ve already told you. Some sample expanding questions might include:

  • Tell me more about that?
  • Why are you interested in

Lessons Learned from the Road

I just returned from a week long Motorcycle trip. It was my first and definitely not my last! We rode from Ottawa through New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and Catskills. Day’s 3-6 were up and down up and down the coast of Maine, – looking for the best lobster shack – and then into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Green Mountains in Vermont. We finished off with a trip into the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Definitely worth the trip by car or bike. Let me know if you are heading into this region as I have a ton of great restaurant recommendations.

You have lots of time to think while on a bike. And while most my thoughts were about staying alive and avoiding road hazards (like cars), I did have moments of inspiration about sales and success.

Over the next few postings I will be sharing the lessons I learned on the road.

Lesson 1: Always be Prepared

As we rode into Lake Placid on day 1 it started to rain. Downpour to be exact. Thanks to good planning, our rain gear was easily accessible – and in good working order. Pants, jacket, overboots, gloves and goggles. It’s not pretty, but it works! An hour later we arrived in Lake Placid and while soaked on the outside, we were warm and dry as can be, on the inside. Other bikers were not so lucky and arrived sopping wet through to their skin…and chilled to the bone.

While Chris and I spent the evening having a lovely 5 course dinner at the Brown Dog Cafe (a MUST in Lake Placid). The soggy, unprepared bikers spent all night stuck in their rooms furiously drying out their boots and gloves with the hotel hair dryer, to make them wearable the next day.

The next day we packed up to head out of town and I saw a sad sight. A biker in a rain slicker (like a Moo Moo) with his friends laughing so hard they could barley hold up their bikes. In a last attempt to stay dry, the poor soul had bought a rain slicker from a tourist shop. Humiliating? Yes, Uncomfortable? Yes. Practical? NO. The slicker was just sturdy enough to last one acceleration past 60 before it would be shredded by the wind. Poor guy would be wet and irritated by the time he got home. He should have ben prepared for rain before he left home.

Now I admit – I am not a pretty picture after a few hours in a helmet and riding in the rain either. Witness exhibit A to the left….But I was sure glad to be dry. I was glad that we were prepared. BTW that’s is the Ausable Chasm outside Lake Placid in New York

How prepared are you for every sales call, presentation or meeting? Have you run through everything that could go right and wrong and developed primary and secondary materials? Some people call it guarding against “Murphy’s Law”. I call it profitable.

Here is how I prepare for every sales call

  1. What I am going to say? Be sure to write some notes for yourself as a reminder.
  2. What questions am I going to ask? Again write them down before you go into the meeting.
  3. What is the customer likely going to ask, and how am I going to respond?
  4. What are the likely objections the customer will have and what will my responses be?
  5. What is my objective of the meeting?
  6. What is my plan B if I don’t reach my objective?

Being prepared for every sales call means there is less likelihood that you will be caught off guard and you definately don’t want to look up prepared in forn of a client. These 6 questions will take you at most 45 minutes to prepare and they are the same 6 you will ask yourself before every call.

At the end of the call you should also debrief yourself because this helps to prepare you for the next meeting. Be sure to ask:

  1. What objections did the customer have that I was not prepared for?
  2. How would I answer those?
  3. What came up that I was not prepared for?
  4. What would I do differently?
  5. What are the follow up steps.

Preparing for each call will ensure that you win more business and are not left wet and hung out to dry by any customer!

In sales, we get paid to pay attention. We need to pay attention when our prospect is talking, when we are asking questions, when we are presenting to a group, when we are driving around our territories (on the look out for new prospects) and in internal meetings. I have found that the most successful sales people are the most attentive sales people.

I am always amazed by how inattentive sales people can be. We are multi-tasking, thinking about what to say next, or hoping our prospect will be quiet long enough for us to make our next point. We are not always 100% focused on the prospect/client. Yet, think about it

Change your Environment to Change your Thinking

Ever faced a customer dilemma or sales problem you just can’t wrap your head around? Many of us have. Consider changing your environment. The latest studies show that we are at our most creative away from the office.

I’m sure this is no surprise to you – it wasn’t for me. Think about it. Don’t you find that you solve problems best when you are out for a walk, in bed, in the shower, or just relaxing on the couch? I know I do. There is definitely merit to the idea of keeping a pen and pad of paper beside your bed!

The following was sent to me by Ed Bernacki, president of The Idea Factory at

Survey: Business Thinking Done Outside of the Office

Dover, N.H. — July 24 When it comes to personal thinking related to business, the most effective location is at home, based on a new survey.

More than half (58.3%) of senior executives and managers say they are most effective in personal thinking about business while in their home, according to the nationwide survey of 223 senior executives and managers conducted by NFI Research.

The next most effective places for business thinking are

1. Commuting (49.8%),
2. The office (44.8%) and
3. During brainstorming sessions (37.8%).

NFI Research surveys 2,000 senior executives and managers globally every two weeks. It has chronicled the transformation of business and countless workplace issues for seven years. NFI Research’s membership represents some of the worlds most renowned and innovative company, including many members from Fortune 100 Companies.

For more information:

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