Great salespeople are made not born.
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The selling landscape has changed.  Simply showing up and telling your customer about your company and it’s products and services just doesn’t cut it with today’s more demanding buyers.  Sellers have to provide more value than product knowledge or pricing – things the customer can often learn on their own with a few clicks.  In fact, recent research suggests that most customers don’t even engage a salesperson until they are 60% of the way through the buying process!

To compete in the new world of selling, you need to be equipped with better skills – skills that don’t simply get acquired by adding years of experience.  Making the same selling mistakes over and over again will not make you better.  There ARE selling techniques and strategies which work better than others and the good news is that you can learn them if you’re committed to continued growth.

Northbound’s methodologies work – period.  They have been culled from hundreds of sources and have been proven to work in the real world.  Our programs contain street tested ideas and actions that you can put into practice immediately.  The formidable combination of workshops, coaching and tools will help you implement the ideas into your own sales process.

Click here for a complete list of workshops for salespeople.

Click here to learn about full sales team development programs.

Contact us to arrange a complimentary no obligation workshop.  Contact Michael at or 416.456.1440 to get details.  We are always happy to discuss your sales challenges.

Workshops for Salespeople


New YearsThere are many reasons (excuses!) most people don’t get around to it.  Here are the 4 biggest.


By Michael Caron, President Northbound Sales

Of course, at this time of year, many of us are thinking about what we’d like to accomplish in 2015.  Like a lot of people, we might call them New Years resolutions.  Just over 40% of North Americans set at least one New Year’s resolution.  Sadly, most people fail to reach them by the end of the year but don’t let this stop you as studies have clearly shown that you always get better results with a goal than without.

Some of you already know that setting goals works.  If you’re a reader of sales-enhancing literature, you’ve surely read lots on the power of goal setting.  If you consistently set written, realistic goals with all the other necessary components for goal success, then read no further.  If, however, you are one of the 60% of the population who is convinced, continue reading to help overcome your resistance.

A powerful question is, “If setting goals is so great, why do less than half of us do it?” I don’t know what the statistics say for the number of us who exercise, but I suspect they are similar.  Both are activities that undoubtedly produce immense benefits yet seem to elude the average person.  There are 4 main reasons why we don’t set goals.

#1 – Fear of Failure

The dreaded F.O.F.  Many of us are stopped by the thought that, “If I set a goal and miss it, I will feel like a failure.”  What is not understood is that having a goal always gets better performance than not — even if the goal is missed.  What’s key is the need for goals to strike a balance between being too hard and too easy.  If you’re hitting your goals all the time, it means that it’s time to raise the bar.  You need to be challenged more to sustain growth and generate that feeling of accomplishment that salespeople thrive on.  If, on the other hand, you are consistently missing your goals and all the other components of good goal setting are present, it’s important to reduce your goals to something more realistic.  If your goals are simply too out of range, you will give up and they will no longer provide the power to motivate.

Also, what people who fear failure might not realize is that failure is necessary for growth.  Knowing what not to do next time can be very valuable.  Winston Churchill said, “I would rather fail my way to success rather than be a successful failure”.  Failing can be the greatest learning experience.


#2 – Procrastination

To misquote Alexander the Great, “Why do something today that you can put off until tomorrow?”  The art of procrastination is worthy of an article of it’s own (put title and link here).  Setting goals, while incredibly powerful, isn’t something that has the urgency of other countless day-to-day tasks crying out for attention.  Disappointingly, like other important but low urgency life enriching activities like exercise, learning and family, we put goal setting in the “when I have time” category.

#3 – “I’ve done OK without them”

If you’re satisfied with a just “O.K.” life, then this is a perfectly good excuse.

#4 – “I keep them in my head”

When teaching our “Bulls Eye! – Setting and Reaching Your Goals” workshop, I often hear this one.  My immediate response is a query on the individual’s goals in key areas.  The typical responses are some vague generalities with no time frame, no plan and most importantly no answer as to “why?”  For the immense power of goal setting to be released, they must be taken out of your head and written down.  The mere act of putting something in writing solidifies your brain’s ability to focus.

Your homework: Get yourself in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.  Write down the biggest sales failure in your career to date.  What were the negative outcomes? What were the positive outcomes? (yes, you will find some if you look hard enough)  Lastly, what did you learn?

An M.I.T. study found that the 3% of a graduating class who had set clear, written career goals upon finishing school, had cumulative net worth 20 years later than the entire other 97% combined!.

With a little bit of effort and discipline to avoid the classic goal setting obstacles noted above, you too can turn your dreams into reality.

Click here for more information on the “Bulls Eye – Setting and Reaching Your Goals” workshop or contact  Michael Caron at or 416.456.1440.


how-to-time-managementThese days, anything with a big positive return on investment sounds too good to be true. We’re not talking about financial investments per se here but rather something just as valuable—your time management.  And more accurately, we should say R.O.T.I. which means Return On Time Invested.
Specifically, the investment is the fifteen minutes that you can use at the end of your day to plan your next day. Simply by taking those few minutes and following a few simple steps, you will very likely experience a minimum of one hour of increased productivity the very next day!
Here are some basics to follow:
  • Review your list of tasks and mark which ones got done and which are still outstanding.
  • Note your accomplishments—important for motivation. List your outstanding tasks and any new ones you’d like to get done in your next day’s to-do list.  In CRM’s or calendar apps, these are often called “task lists.”  If you don’t know where the task list is or how to use it, take a few minutes to learn.  A calendar for your appointments is not enough.
  • Prioritize the tasks as As (need to get done tomorrow) or Bs (important but don’t absolutely have to be done tomorrow).
  • Put appointments/meetings in the time slots.
  • Work on one task at a time until you’re done (easier said than done we know) before moving onto the next. Multitasking seems to be a good idea but the lack of focus that comes with it causes ineffectiveness.  Recent research shows that it can actually lower your I.Q. too!

  • Mark off your tasks as you get them done, allowing time for interruptions and unplanned activities.

An added benefit is reducing your stress.  Often, as sales professionals, we feel overwhelmed by the tsunami of things we need (or want!) to get done.  Let’s face it, a salesperson’s job is never “done.”  We could always make more calls or engage in something that will help us grow revenue.  That’s a big reason why getting stuff out of your head and onto the plan for the next day makes so much sense.  Not only will you feel more in control, but it’ll prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night going through your checklist of things to be done.

Wasting TimeGain up to 30 minutes extra productivity per day by eliminating these.

Show me a sales professional in the top 10% of their industry and I’ll show you a person who is in the top 10% at time management.

Unfortunately, as salespeople, we are hard wired to be poor at juggling priorities and tasks. Studies show that most salespeople fall into the high “Influence” category of personality (from the D.I.S.C. profiling system), meaning that we are very good at influencing, communicating and adapting to change. Time management isn’t one of our strong points however. I’m often asked what biggest mistakes salespeople make are and poor time management ranks in the top 3. As you might expect, when working with sales teams, I have found that while they want to learn new presentation or objection handling techniques, growing their goal and time management capabilities provides the biggest & quickest performance gains.
In my experience, here is where most of us lose massive amounts of selling capacity:

Time Waster Number One—No Plan
We start the month with no specifics on what we want to accomplish. “If you don’t know where you want to go, any road will take you there.” You should take the 30 minutes at the end of one month to review and plan for the next in all important areas. Similarly you will greatly benefit from planning your week before you set out. Sunday evening is a great time to take 20 minutes and map out your goals/priorities for the week. Time management is largely a result of good priority management.  Planning allows you to get the “big picture” and prioritize by comparing the urgency and importance of your goals for the week.  Monday morning is OK but is more risky in that you might get distracted and caught up in “doing” before you are finished your “planning”. It is almost impossible to plan and implement at the same time. Below is an example of what a weekly plan might look like:


B – do 50 prospecting calls Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30–11:00

B – make follow-up calls on all outstanding proposals from last month

A – prepare for proposal presentations with HugeCo and Willbuy Inc.

B – check in with production on delivery of orders

B – practice new voicemail technique and ask Bob for feedback

A – get monthly expenses report in


A – run 3x for 30 min each in the morning Mon, Wed, Fri.

B – do rough plan for new deck in backyard

A – get anniversary gift

B – get to bed earlier. By 10:30 at least 4 weeknights.

An “A” priority means that it’s “important and urgent” for the week while a “B” means that while important, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done this week.
Your days should start with a plan too of course, using the same A & B prioritization. Research shows that 10 minutes spent planning your day will give you approximately 60 minutes of increased productivity. That’s a 6:1 R.O.T.I. (return on time invested)!  With better time management, many graduates of our “Goal Aligned Time™” program report these results commonly.  Done for a week, that will give you the time to make about 25 more prospecting calls. Run that number through your sales funnel stats and you will be astonished by what this means in hard dollars.
Mark Twain famously said, “Eat a frog first thing in the morning and everything else you have to do in the day will seem easy.”  Eat your “frog” – do your toughest things that require the most focus – first thing.

Time Waster Number Two—The Email Black Hole
Just like a black hole, the gravitational attraction of email can suck you in just like a planet and once you’re in, there’s no turning back! Email is a very powerful communication tool but overused and often used improperly too. Don’t start your day with email. Start with a plan instead. You don’t need to respond to emails when they come in. Let them stack up and return them in batches at certain intervals in the day. Your average time/message will drop significantly! Low urgency emails can be left to clear at the end of day or even a couple of times/week. Be ruthless with deletion. I often delete messages without looking at them based on the subject and sender. The average person can speak at 120 words/minute yet only type at 30 words/minute.

Time Waster Number Three—Busy But Not Productive
You have three main tasks. Prospect, present and close. If you’re not doing one of these, then you’re not growing your sales. Do a time log for one week, noting your actual use of time in 1 hour blocks. At the end of the week note what activities were directly related to sales, admin and nonsense. You will be amazed where your time is actually going and as a bonus, your productivity will jump as you gain an awareness of this.

Time Waster Number Four—Interruptions
Whether it’s someone walking in to discuss last night’s “American Idol” or your email ringing each time you get a message, you lose much more than the time to chat or listen to the bell. Studies show that the average person, when interrupted, takes 6 minutes to get back to the same level of concentration prior to the interruption. Do the math: If you get interrupted just 5 times in an hour, you are operating at 50% effectiveness. Think about that next time you grab your smart (a misnomer in many ways) phone to check your most recent tweet!

If you or your sales team would like to get better at time management, check out Northbound’s workshop, “Goal Aligned Time™.”  For more details or pricing, contact Michael Caron at or 416.456.1440.

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Over the years, I’ve had countless requests for training from individuals who aren’t part of a large sales team or from operators of small business who wear many hats – sales being one of them. This introductory workshop is for them.

Sales are the lifeblood of any small business. Running a small but growing entrepreneurial enterprise often requires the operator to wear many hats – one being “the sales team” for the company. But all too often, entrepreneurs resort to selling by instinct and lack formal training to maximize their limited selling time.  This public sales training workshop, being held in Oakville, Ontario, is built for these people.

If this sounds like you, this workshop can help. It’s designed specifically for small businesses that don’t want to stay small!
In 2 hours, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the 3 mistakes most salespeople make
  • Understand what makes people buy anything. And it’s not what you think!
  • Implement 3 top strategies for prospecting success
  • Use the most powerful tool in a salesperson’s toolbox – great questions!

You will be left with dozens of ideas that you can implement immediately in your business to land more sales with less effort.

All this for an introductory fee of $49. And, if you are not completely satisfied that you received value for your money, the training is FREE!
Sign up for our free bi-weekly sales tips at

To register click here!


Do these and buyers will give you more time, more often.

By Michael Caron, President, Northbound Sales

1) Ask questions but ask for permission first

It’s great to ask questions on a prospecting call to understand what issues, challenges or goals a customer might have but don’t forget to frame why you’re asking them.  Otherwise, it can catch your prospect off guard and they will be less apt to want to answer questions until they know “what’s in it for them” to do so.  Use language such as, “I don’t know if there’s a fit between our companies for sure but would it be OK for me to ask you two quick questions to help see?”  In the thousands of calls I’ve personally used this strategy of asking permission with, I’ve only been turned down once!

2) Be friendly and conversational, yet professional

It’s a delicate balance to strike, but if you can speak to someone as if they are already an acquaintance, you will get them to listen to you and open up more as well.  Too casual, such as, “We’re amazing at that kind of stuff man.” and you’ll be dismissed as unprofessional.  On the other hand, “We have a superior track record of excellence within that category” will likely come across as too stiff.

In more advanced selling, you will want to learn how to read the personality of the prospect and adjust accordingly but for now, friendly yet professional will do in most cases.

3) Use softeners

Try to frame your questions with “softeners” that allow you to probe without sounding like you’re interrogating them.  Use language such as “Would you happen to know . . . Could you share with me . . . Do you know about how many . . . How important would you say blah, blah is?”  Be curious not interrogative.

4) Find at least two issues 

Try to probe and uncover at least two problems/challenges/issues that your solution might be able to help them with before suggesting a meeting.  If you can’t get two, run with only one but at least try for two.

5) Keep practicing!

Your prospects won’t give you honest feedback that will help you get better but your friends will!

You and your team can learn to prospect better and in less time with Northbound’s “Power Prospecting” and “Connecting to Mr. Big Cheese” workshops.  For more information or to arrange a complimentary workshop for your team, contact Michael at or 416.456.1440.

Inside Sales

Simple order taking doesn’t cut it anymore

By Michael Caron, President, Northbound Sales

The role of inside sales is changing to be more demanding.  Your customer’s expectations from your customer service department is greater than ever.  It’s no longer adequate to simply “be there” when a customer is ready to order.  These days, customers expect you to know their business and anticipate their needs.  And with instant access to your competitor’s offerings, your prior relationship with your customer is constantly being put to the test.

To add to the mix, your inside sales team plays a more important role as the cost of getting face-to-face with customers from outside sales teams spirals in cost.

When planning how you’re going to confront this challenge, the first thing to do is ask, “What do we actually expect our inside sales team to do that they aren’t currently?”  Although companies sometimes label the department as “inside sales”, often times, they aren’t expected to drive sales.  Rather they really serve a customer service function, facilitating sales where the demand has already been created.  There’s nothing wrong with having exceptional customer service people — without them customers would leave quickly — but it’s important to clarify their precise role.

For true inside sales teams, ones who are responsible for creating demand, there are two primary types, reactive and proactive.

Reactive:  These teams respond to incoming communications from customers and through up-selling and cross-selling, sell “deeper and wider” with them.

Proactive: These teams reach out to existing customers and again, cross and up-sell.  For your team to effectively stimulate sales in a cost effective manner, good account planning is critical.  Before they contact a customer, they should be very familiar with their buying history, past issues/challenges and what share of wallet your company is currently capturing from them.  A good inside sales rep will be armed with some great questions that will help uncover business challenges that the customer has and that your solution can solve.  It’s not good enough to simply call up a customer to tell them about your library of products.

Up-selling is selling additional products and services to the original request.  This can involve asking probing questions to understand how the customer is going to be using your product or service; their problems or challenges, and then suggesting additional solutions.  However, to get the ball rolling, it could be as simple as asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

Cross-selling is getting your current customer to help leverage you into other departments that might need your solution.  Internal referrals almost always guarantee an open invite with new contacts within your customer’s organization to discuss how your product might help.  Some language might be, “Hi Bob, it’s Mary from Hugeco Widgets and George Wilson in your Atlanta office suggested we speak.  We’ve had a lot of success helping George and his department accomplish “benefit, benefit and benefit” and I was hoping to better understand some of the challenges of your department and see if we might be of help to you too.”

These types of calls can be made by either your inside or outside sales team.  But whichever route you go, they must be very skilled in being able to draw out in a conversation the problems, issues or goals of the customer and explain how using more of your company’s product or service can help them solve issues or reach their goals better.  The good news is that advances in technology (web, email, auto responders) allows inside teams to sell to your customers more effectively.

Northbound “Goal Aligned Selling™” program can help turn your customer service or inside sales teams into exceptional achievers.  For more information or to arrange a complimentary workshop for your team, contact Michael at or 416.456.1440.