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


7Dealing with a discount request while maintaining profit margins and closing the sales requires delicate balance.

By Michael Caron, President, Northbound Sales

Despite your best attempts to sell value and remain firm on your price, some clients will press
ahead with their request for a discount. After a solid attempt from you to reassure them that your price is fair, if your prospect is still pushing for a discount, you have a choice. Walk away from the business because you want to maintain your price or slowly start to give concessions in an attempt to win (or save) the business.

If you want to give concessions, following a simple system will ensure a profitable negotiation.

Your First Step
The first step, always, is to find something else to give up that doesn’t reduce your price. Free shipping. Extra manuals or training. A client profile on your Web site. What you choose will be specific to your business, your markets and your client base. The key is to have the list of things you’re willing to offer prepared in advance, so you can draw on it during the negotiation.

It’s hard to think creatively in the heat of a negotiation, so planning ahead can give you a ready-made solution that leaves both you and the client feeling satisfied with the transaction.
Your goal is to maintain the price integrity of your product while delivering extra value to the customer with a service that does not cost you anything (or very little). For example, if the customer asks you for a discount consider offering them following instead:
1. An unconditional money back guarantee
2. Free shipping
3. Payment terms
4. Payment with credit card
5. Free training CD’s or in house training by you on the product
6. Access to a public seminar or trade show your company is sponsoring
7. Free set up (if you are a printer/embroidery/promotional products company)
8. Future discounts based on volume: the company will pay full price today and receive a discount on a future order. You can also do this as a gift certificate for them to use later.
9. Free electronic copies or hard copies of your help /training manuals
10. Upgraded support levels
11. Participation on your client advisory board or panel

About half the time, your customer will take you up on the offer to provide a “non monetary concession.” The other half will continue pressing for a price discount because in today’s
marketplace it has become all too common for one supplier to attempt to trump all others by lowering their price. In many cases, your clients are being trained by the competition and other vendors to demand lower pricing from you. It’s a short term strategy, and it does little to benefit buyers but that doesn’t make it any easier to assure prospects they’ll get equal or better ROI by paying more.

Sometimes, a prospect just wants you to lower your price, and you (with your company’s support) will need to consider doing it.

Your Second Step
If you feel you have to give up a discount in order to close the sale, do yourself a huge favor and always ask them one of the two following questions first: “What is important to you about an x% discount?” or “Why is an x% discount important to you?”

These questions will flush out any last details that could help you find a different way to structure the terms and pricing. This allows you to keep your price while letting the customer walk away with their needs met as well. If, however, you ultimately do have to reduce your price, make sure to follow these two rules:

Never reduce your price without getting something in return. Getting something in exchange for a pricing concession is key to managing customer expectations that future discounts will not be easily dished out. As with the “no money” concessions above, what you get in return for a price reduction will be unique to your business and markets. It could include references or case studies, a bigger order, introductions to senior level executives or cash up front, etc… Again, whatever you ask for, prepare the list in advance so you can respond quickly and

Your Third Step

Nothing is worse than coming to an agreement on price (especially a reduced price!) only to find out that your prospect is still looking for other concessions. Be sure to get a firm verbal agreement from the customer that this discount is all they will need to get the deal done. Try asking them something like “I’m not sure if I can get you this price, but if I can, is it fair to say that we can go ahead?” or “I’m not sure I can get this discount for you. If I can, though, are you willing to ….?”

By asking them this last question, you can ensure you get
all the issues on the table first, giving you the chance to deal with them fairly once and for all. So what goes after the “willing to”…. in that question? I believe that if you must, absolutely must reduce your price to win the business NEVER let that price drop without getting something in return.

Try some of these best practice ideas for finishing the question… “I’m not sure I can get this discount for you. If I can, though, are you willing to ….?
1. place your order today?
2. provide full payment up front?
3. place a larger order?
4. provide me 3 qualified referrals / introductions?
5. give us a testimonial or case study?
6. allow us to sponsor the event you are organizing?
7. invite me to the event you are having for their clients?
8. provide me space in your newsletter for a monthly column?
9. provide my company an exclusive purchasing arrangement?
10. introduce me to additional departments or internal decision makers?
11. have us in for a “lunch and learn session” with your staff ?

This step is easy to do if you have conviction. The first step to finding better clients – ones that focus on value and not price – is making sure you are 100% confident that you are delivering such a high value to the marketplace. Confident that all buyers will want to own it at full cost. When you do believe this, you will not have any trouble asking for something valuable in return for your price discount.

Remember that what you ask for does not have too be of equal monetary value. In fact it can be free for the customer to provide as long as it has value for you. The goal is to employ reciprocity – you will gladly scratch the customers back as long as they are willing to scratch yours! Creating equality in your client relationships ensures that you will have a long lasting
trust based relationship which reduces the amount of “shopping” the customer does each time they need to order. This increases your profits, decreases your sales cycle and encourages referrals.

You and your team can learn to produce stronger relationships and more equitable and profitable business interactions with Northbound’s “Win/Win Negotiations” workshop. For more information or pricing, contact Michael Caron at, 416.456.1440


Your Words Are Important – Choose Them Carefully!

1. Eliminate the grunts: Um and Ah and Uh!
Be comfortable with the silence and resume speaking when the thought is there. People who use “um” to illustrate their thought process may appear less sure and less knowledgeable.

2. Sorta, kinda, shoulda – what?
These words make you sound unsure of your ideas. Casual language sounds unprofessional and sends the wrong message.

3. Avoid absolutes.
When you use absolutes, you are asking to be proved wrong. Substitute often for always and rarely for never. Use absolutes sparingly.

4. Avoid slang or rough phrases.
Avoid using slang like “ain’t” or rough phrases like “that sucks.” They make you sound very unprofessional. Find another way to say what you mean.

5. Stop the hard sell.
Ending each though with “You know?” or “You know what I mean?” Come across as the hard sell and are annoying. People who abuse these phrases are seeking support for poorly explained ideas.

6. Avoid but and however!
These words negate whatever was said before them and send a message to the prospect that you didn’t mean what was said before “but” or “however”. Here’s an example – “I understand why you might feel that way, however, there is another way to view this.” A simple pause will serve you much better than “however” ever will.

About Len D’Innocenzo – Len is a Co-founder of Corporate Sales Coaches, a US based provider of cutting edge performance development programs for over 20 years. Northbound Sales has an exclusive Canadian partnership with Corporate Sales Coaches.  If you or your team would like to learn how to ace the language of a powerful sales call or arrange a complimentary workshop, contact Michael at 416.456.1440 or


And lying to your customers isn’t one of them . . .


This week, a good friend of mine in the insurance business suggested I sit in (virtually through webcast) on a keynote that Jordan Belfort, the “Wolf of Wall Street” was giving, ironically, to the risk management industry. Even though I haven’t seen the movie yet, I had heard pieces of his story that were intriguing enough for me to eagerly log on and here him in real time. I’m so glad that I did. I pulled 3 pieces of wisdom that are completely applicable to sales in any industry — yes — including yours. It’s important to note that Jordan was, and would likely have continued to be, incredibly successful in his business without his ethical transgressions.

To be clear, I truly believe that strong integrity is not only the right way to operate as a human being, but is also an asset that helps you sell more in the long run. The following insights have nothing to do with Jordan’s admitted crossing of the integrity threshold. They are, rather, three of the many things that he did right and very, very well.


1) Drive Trumps Intelligence

Jordan spoke of the ragtag group of misfits he recruited from the streets of New Jersey. To quote him, “None of them were from the deep end of the intelligence gene pool.” He didn’t hire them for their I.Q. The drive to succeed and more specifically, the deep desire to make oodles of money was most important.

Do you need to have a high IQ to be successful in sales? I frankly haven’t see any studies to answer the question but from what I’ve observed in working with top performers, simply put, no. I’m a perfect example of this! Does intelligence help? Of course. But it’s not as critical as most people think.


2) Selling is a Science – Not an Art

After listening to him speak for 2 minutes, I had to watch the entire webcast (despite it being during my prospecting time – my bad) as he is a highly captivating speaker. I was hooked even further when he went to the whiteboard and starting explaining his sales methodology! He found it easy to sell to high net worth individuals as could his partner but nobody else on the team could. Logically, he thought that if he could “crack the code” on what he was doing differently, he might be able to get others to follow the process.

In the keynote presentation, he quickly drew his selling model on the board and the good news for all of us is that it’s not rocket science. If he had just resigned himself to the flawed notion that “some people have the knack to sell and others don’t,” he would never have cracked the code and scaled his business.


3) The Science Can Be Learned

The “Wolf of Wall Street” was careful to explain many parts of the movie which were embellished. Interestingly, he only noted one area that wasn’t given enough attention to reflect reality — the Herculean effort to turn his menagerie of misfits into top sellers. In the movie, he says everybody just started selling like crazy. In reality, it took months and months of training, coaching, and inspiring. Eventually, after much hard work, his team became the best sales force on Wall Street, which as we all know, has some pretty decent competition in the top sales talent arena. As Northbound’s slogan says, “Great salespeople are made, not born.”

Do you have high intelligence? That’s a trick question to see if you were reading carefully because doesn’t matter anyway! Do you have deep drive and ambition to build a great career in sales? Yes? Great! This means that if you systematically and consistently take action to learn proven selling methods, you can become the “Wolf” of your own street. You too will enjoy immense success as Jordan Belfort did — maybe not to the same financial extent but because of your ironclad integrity, you’ll have the added benefit of skipping the jail time piece of his incredible story!

Check out Northbound’s workshops that will teach you street tested strategies to build your sales by clicking here. For more information or pricing, contact Michael Caron at 416.456.1440 or

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 10.06.16 PM
Using some simple math, you can figure out precisely what “inputs” you need to get the required “output” — your sales target!

As a sales trainer and coach, the first place to start when growing sales results is to do some basic homework. The homework I’m speaking of is the analyzing of their current sales process including the number of key sales activities to produce one sale.  We need to know what’s happening now in order to determine what improvements are needed.

There are 3 main components to an effective salesperson or sales team:

Activities – Are you doing enough of the key activities that drive sales? For sales involving acquisition of new customers, these typically include generating new leads through traditional or inbound efforts, making contact attempts, doing discovery meetings, presenting proposals, following up etc.

Skill – Do you have the required skills in the various required areas? Do you know how to engage a potential customer with a clear, concise and compelling message? Do you know all the steps in a discovery meeting that will uncover the challenges, issues and needs of the customer? Can you effectively move a customer towards a commitment? Do you handle all objections deftly?

Attitude – A great attitude is required to sustain the above. Without tenacity, optimism and a willingness to continually learn, burnout often sets in.

We call this the “Northbound Sales Performance Triad.”  While attitude is difficult to measure, the other two components of the triad can be determined with a little effort.

Sales is a process and like any process, it can be broken down into steps and each step can be measured. And just like anything – improving your golf score, saving money or making more sales – things always get better when you measure them! Can you imagine trying to drop your golf score by only knowing what the final tally was at the end of each game?

The first place to start is by “slicing and dicing” your sales process. This is also called a “funnel analysis.” Then track two things: the number of key activities you do and your conversion rates which are the percentage of activities that lead to the next step in the sale. If you haven’t tracked these things in the past and have no data, an easy way to estimate your funnel is to work backwards.

Do your calculations on making one sale only. Ask yourself, “What key activity happens right before making a sale?” Often this will be presenting a proposal. Then ask, “How many key activities do I need to make 1 sale?” If you need to present 4 proposals on average to make 1 sale, then your closing rate is 1/4 or 25%. Keep working your way up the funnel asking the same questions until you get the top. You will then know approximately how many activities you need to make 1 sale. The top number could be the number of prospecting calls or leads required to make 1 sale. Here is a completed reverse funnel exercise for a very simple sales process.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.35.34 PM

Having done this exercise with hundreds of people over the years, I can tell you that this number is often quite shocking! It’s not uncommon for salespeople to discover that their current activity level is terribly out of sync with their sales goal. Logically, if they keep doing what they are doing, it’s a mathematical certainty that they will miss their sales target.

If you’re in this situation, you might ask, “What can I do about it?” don’t get too discouraged. I’ll discuss the “20% Solution” in my next blog post.

If you or your sales team could use some help in mapping out a prospecting plan that will take you to your sales goal, check out our Power Prospecting workshop. Contact Michael for more details at or 416.456.1440.


Does the bestselling book on sales provide new insights?

Geoffrey James is one of the best sales expert bloggers and is the sales go-to guy for Inc. magazine. I’m pushing this along because he and I are in sync on the bestselling book, “The Challenger Sale” in that it’s mostly a retread of proven selling concepts combined with some original and flawed advice. It’s a good example of how attractive the marketing of “new selling ideas” can be. I know the industry very well and frankly, there aren’t any groundbreaking new methodologies that I’ve come across since Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling research and findings which Xerox sponsored over 25 years ago.

My advice is rather than looking for the flavour of the month, get your team mastering the fundamentals — setting goals, managing their time, prospecting, presenting and closing — by engaging in great training followed by relentless practice and implementation.  Check out Geoff’s article in Inc. here.

Texting Too MuchI bet just a few minutes ago!  This is a great article inspiring us to change the nasty habit of checking our phone hundreds of times per day into something more meaningful.  So many of us mistake being “busy” with being productive.  Salespeople, by nature, are very prone to this “busy-ness” syndrome.  Doing things that get you closer to you goals is the key and checking emails and texting incessantly doesn’t usually help.  Click here to check it out.

Our “Goal Aligned Time” workshop teaches powerful email management strategies and other time saving ideas.

You're Fired!

I just read a very well written article in Profit from Mark Stuyt which spells the end of salespeople who customers have counted on in the past to be sources of product information.  I couldn’t agree more.  Salespeople can expect to find it increasingly hard to entice customers to engage with them if they don’t provide any value over what a few minutes of web research can do.  Salespeople, on the other hand, who have been well trained to take a true consultative approach will find the transition to the new world of selling much easier.

Why?  Because they will be able to uncover the problems, issues and needs with a potential buyer and armed with this deep knowledge and their industry experience, give advice on solutions that fit.  A great salesperson can also help a customer see problems and opportunities that they might not even realize they have.

I recently read that the average buyer will be 65% of the way through the selling process before engaging a salesperson.  If you are not much more than a “talking brochure or website” as a salesperson, there is nothing you can help the customer with and you will be left out of the process.  This points to a need for sales professionals to be just that … more professional.

Exceptional training has never been more important!