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 [email protected] or 416.456.1440 to get details.  We are always happy to discuss your sales challenges.

Workshops for Salespeople


Joined in businessIf you stay cool and follow these steps, your negotiations will produce agreements that last.

Contrary to what some think, negotiation isn’t something that only takes place at the end of the selling process. We are actually negotiating and laying the groundwork for further negotiation throughout the sale. When the customer has agreed that your solution fits with their needs but there is not agreement on variables such as delivery, terms and, of course price, good negotiating skills will bring the sale to successful completion. Here are six essentials:

One – Plan:

Never go into a negotiation without a plan. Do your homework. What do you know about the individual you are negotiating with? What is their personality style? How can you adjust your style to be more effective with them? What information do you want to disclose or keep confidential? What is the time frame for this negotiation? Go through some of the other points below and write this information down.

Two – Have a collaboration mindset:

Most negotiations involve parties with which you want to have a long term, mutually profitable relationship with. You will only be able to protect and nurture this relationship if an agreement is reached that is truly win win. Enter the negotiation with this in mind and test the commitment of the other party to a win win, collaborative solution. If both parties agree that an agreement will be easier to reach if creativity, openness and collaboration prevail, the negotiation will have a much greater chance of delivering a successful deal.

Three – Make a concession list:

Make a list of all the things that you could give up and all the things they could give up in the negotiation. Then put two columns beside each, one for cost and the for value. By doing this, you will be better able to give up concessions that cost you little (but have high value to the customer) while accepting concessions in return that have high value to you.

Four – Uncover goals: 

Make a list of goals from your point of view and the other party’s point of view. These should include objective and subjective goals along with business and personal. If you’re not sure of some of the goals of the other party, make an educated guess for now and attempt to confirm them during the negotiation.

Five – Don’t counter immediately:

When an offer is made, resist the urge to make a counter offer immediately. A person’s resistance to another person’s idea is the greatest immediately after they’ve given their own. Instead, explore it with the other party. Ask questions like, “Why do you think this might make sense for both of us? How exactly would that work in this area?” Probe for this solution meeting the win win criteria and show that you are truly considering it. If it doesn’t meet win win, state why it doesn’t work and then slowly come back by saying something like, “Something such as (terms) might work because . . .”

Six – Know your walk away point:

The goal of the negotiation is not just to produce an agreement. It’s to produce an agreement that works for both parties and protects the relationship. Know what the minimum terms are for you to accept an agreement. Understand that no agreement might be the best alternative. We call this your “BATNA” or the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. By knowing your BATNA, you will prevent being driven into a deal that works for the customer but not for you.

You or your team can learn how to master these steps plus learn many more strategies to successful negotiation in Northbound’s “Goal Aligned™ Negotiations“.

juggler-1Most executives would say if there is one area of their life where there is a serious time and priority mismatch, it would be with their family. To juggle conflicting priorities between work and home is not a balancing act for the faint of heart.  Most executives are a living contradiction in that, while surveys show that family is generally their number one priority, it rarely ranks number one in volume of time or in planning of commitments.

Why? Usually it’s because people have gotten into the habit of letting work related “urgent” activities bump family time off the agenda. Your son or daughter isn’t going to send you an e-mail or a text firmly stating that they want to have dinner with you or go play in the park at a certain time.
Turning your priorities into action starts with having a clear set of goals that reflect your values and emphasizes all the different areas of your life such as family, career, financial, health, social, spiritual and recreational. Think of these areas as being the spokes in a wheel with you at the centre. If one of more spokes are broken, the wheel doesn’t turn smoothly. If enough spokes are missing or broken, the wheel doesn’t move at all.
Here are some ways to get control of your life:
ONE – Set some goals: Ironically, the number one reason people don’t set goals is that they are afraid of failing to reach them. This flies in the face of reams of research indicating that having goals ALWAYS achieves better results than without! Goal setting must be accompanied by a realistic yet challenging execution plan. Start with your life goals, then break that down into yearly, monthly & even weekly goals.
TWO – Plan your time to match: Plan your week in advance. Each week, I pull out my month’s goals and ask myself, “What can I do this week to help drive me closer to my goals?” I break my monthly goals into smaller “bite-size” chunks and then plug them as to-do’s into a specific day. A goal without a plan is just a dream.
THREE – Categorize your actions: Goals and time management are inextricably linked. Effective time management is actually just goal setting in a short time frame. Take your tasks and mark them as A’s or B’s. A’s are things that must get done in the time frame that you’re planning for (i.e. day, week or month) while B’s can wait if necessary. Note: They are both important. The A/B distinction is only for urgency. If something’s not important, why are you spending any time on it anyway?

FOUR – Do it again! At the end of day, note how you did and plan for the next day. If you would like to learn more check out our Goal Aligned Time™ program.

Setting Goals & ExpectationsChecking your progress is critical for success!

You might be thinking, “Why is he asking me how I’m doing on my New Year’s resolutions when it’s only January?”  The reason is that 1 in 4 people don’t even make it through the first week on their resolutions or goals, whatever you want to call them!  If you don’t get off to a good start, there’s little chance of you hitting your goals by the end of the year.  Goals can be the source of motivation and drive yet they can also represent endless frustration if we fail to reach them.

Everyone knows that goals make a difference, an incredible difference in fact. We all know (and maybe even secretly envy!) our friends and colleagues who set and reach their goals. High achievers will rarely be heard saying things like, “I don’t know how I did so well. It just sort of happened!” Rather, they use a process that others don’t.

If goals are so powerful, why do only 5% of the population set clear goals for their career and their life? The biggest reason is the dreaded F.O.F.—Fear of Failure—an enemy I was first introduced to many years ago in training as a summer student manager for College Pro Painters. The thinking seems to be “If I don’t have goals, I certainly can’t fail reaching them can I?” Of course, this is skewed logic leading to failure.
What these people might not realize is that failure is fundamental to growth and higher performance in the future. Further, research proves that having goals almost always leads to greater results than not having them — even if you fail to reach them!

Reaching goals is something you can learn

The second most common reason for not setting goals is not knowing how. Setting & reaching goals is more complex than many people may think. It is a process that needs to be taught. Strangely, most people have little to no training on this powerful skill. If you are one of the few who took the time to write down some goals for 2023, congratulations. You’ve taken an important first step! Now let’s check to see if you have some of the other components that will lead to success. Effective goal management needs to be S.M.A.R.T. That is:
SPECIFIC. The more specific, the better. Saying, “I’d like to sell more this year,” isn’t good enough. How many more sales exactly? At what margin?
MEASURABLE. As the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” You need to know if you’re winning or losing and you can’t tell if you’re not keeping score. It’s best to have major goals broken down into mini-goals that you can measure along the way.
ACTIONABLE. Hope doesn’t cut it. You need to have a massive action plan designed. And you need to be ready to change. How many more calls am I going to do each month, each week, each day? Are they scheduled in your agenda? Are you planning on increasing your selling skills? How? When?
REALISTIC. Goals need to be a delicate balance between too hard and too easy. Too hard and you’ll give up when you see it being out of reach. Too easy and you’ll feel like you haven’t really accomplished anything. R also stands for REVIEW. Reviewing your progress along the way allows you to adjust your tactics accordingly.
TIME PHASED. If there is no time frame, there is no goal. Would you really be happy if you finally hit your sales target in your last year before retirement? Of course not. Attach dates to everything. Pull out your goals regularly and “keep your eye on the prize”. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by some of the uncomfortable steps along the way. Keep your focus on how amazing you’re going to feel when you’ve reached your objective.

A great thing about training and developing sales teams is that I get to work with salespeople who, by nature, are goal oriented and high achievers. If you would like to learn more about improving your skills in reaching goals, Northbound offers “Bulls Eye!”, a workshop dedicated to helping sales professionals get what they want out of their career and their life.

phone prospecting image

Using a well practiced script for prospecting is a key to success.

In my prospecting workshops, I sometimes get push-back when I recommend the use of a phone script.  The objections often come in the form of, “I don’t want to sound fake” or “You never know what the prospect is going to say, so a phone script won’t work.”

There are 3 strong reasons why you need one:

Reason #1: The words will be more powerful.

You’ve only got a few seconds to get the listener to want to keep talking.  In fact, one study found that a listener will start deciding whether they want to continue a phone conversation or not in the first 8 seconds!  Having a script allows you to craft the message in a clear, concise & compelling manner.  In my experience, salespeople who try to “wing-it” end up in convoluted, weak conversations that end in failure.  Rather, when you put the time in, you can craft a message that gets to the point – a point that will resonate with your prospect.

Reason #2: You can perfect your delivery.

Just like a professional performer, your delivery will get better and better when you know what you’re going to say and you practice it until it’s smooth.  Can you imagine a performer who tries to do things differently every night?  Most people’s experience with salespeople who are obviously using a script is usually negative.  Why?  Because they usually are hired, given a script and told to simply read it to the customer.  Of course it sounds fake because they are reading it and haven’t practised it until it’s great.  The irony is that the more practiced you are, the more natural you sound!  You will never know that someone who is good is using a script because it sounds so natural.

Reason #3: You will have more confidence.

Prospecting can be nerve-wracking but when you know how you’re going to approach a prospect and have it well practiced, you’re confidence will multiply.  And your increased confidence will benefit you in two ways:  The confidence will come through in your voice and you’ll be less fearful of making more calls!

Northbound’s workshop, “Connecting to the Big Cheese” covers all the critical parts of prospecting skills including script development.  For more info, click here or contact Michael at [email protected] or 416.456.1440.

Happy Selling!

no-talkingIf you’re a sales manager who prides yourself on playing the role of a “sales coach,” one of the most important skills is learning to keep quiet.

Do you get out in the field with your reps enough?  Yes?  Great.  But what happens when do ride-alongs and do some sales calls together?

This is what typically happens:

Sales Manager: “OK Bob.  What’s the objective of the next call?”

Bob: “I want to explain how our left-handed widget will help them cut their waste.”

Sales Manager:  “Sounds good.”

Bob: “Hi Mr. Customer.  Have you got a few minutes?  Great.  I wanted to tell you about our new product that I think you’re going to really like.”

Sales Manager: “Yes.  We’ve spend a bundle on R & D to come up with it.  It’s 43% better than the right-handed model.  What are you the challenges you’ve been having with the right-handed one?”

BOOM.  The Sales Manager is off to the races.  He’s now deep in a conversation with the customer while Bob sits there and doesn’t dare interrupt.  After the call is over, the Sales Manager asks, “How do you think that went?” to which Bob answers, “Pretty good.”  The Sales Manager is thinking, “Darn good thing I was there!”

What kind of quality learning experience is that for the Bob?  Hint: Not a very good one.

The first rule for sales coaches is to observe current behaviour. You need an accurate picture of what the rep is doing when you’re not there which you will not get if you take over the call.  Far too often I see sales manager’s egos get in the way of good coaching.  Sometimes it’s not ego as much as the sales manager’s eagerness to help the customer as much as possible that makes it impossible for them to keep quiet.

Frequently, sales managers tell me, “I can’t just sit there and be quiet.  The customer’s expecting me to say something.”  While I agree, you can still keep your conversation to a minimum.  If a question is directed at you, simply defer it to the rep by saying something like, “Bob’s probably more up to speed on that than me actually.”  And then let Bob take it.

I’ve been on calls where the rep has been messing up so badly that I’m practically ready to burst.  It almost kills me to keep my mouth shut but I know that I have to.  One way of looking at it is this – Bob’s probably messed up a couple dozen calls before this one.  What’s one more?  You need to have first hand evidence of what he’s doing.  Otherwise, you will be coaching in a vacuum.

Instead of talking, a much better use of your time is to take a few notes of what Bob did well and what he can do better next time.

You’ll not only be able to coach more effectively, but Bob is going to look forward much more to your next coaching session!



positive-thinkingResearch study shows clear link

Many of you reading this heading might think that it reads backwards.  That is, it should state that “more sales will lead to greater happiness!”  This notion is intuitive with almost all salespeople receiving a shot of endorphins (the happiness hormone) when they close a sale.  A recent study concludes, however, that being happy leads to more sales – 37% more sales in fact according to the author of the Harvard Business Review article, Shawn Achor.  A bestselling author of two books on the subject, Achor asserts that a decade of research has shown that a good healthy level of happiness helps people’s careers not only in sales but in productivity by 31%, accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as myriad of health and quality of life improvements.

You might be asking, “Even if being happy can help sales, how can I just be more happy?”  What a great question.  Does Northbound have a workshop on happiness?  Unfortunately, we don’t, but Achor shares the results of a happiness training program done with the KPMG that proves that a company can teach it’s people how to be happier on the job and off.  He also gives tips on how to do it yourself.  I’m a firm believer that happiness, like selling skills, can largely be taught.  What happened at KPMG in this study supports this.

With just a three-hour introduction to positive psychology and training on how to apply the principles at work, all measured areas improved including life satisfaction, perceived stress, effectiveness at work and work optimism.  Even months later, this very short session’s impact was still holding strong.  A key component was doing daily exercises which, after 21 days, became a habit.

The exercises were simple:

  1. Write down three new things you are grateful for every day;
  2. Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours;
  3. Exercise for 10 mins a day
  4. Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out
  5. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team

I’ve read a lot about cognitive psychology over the years – especially the groundbreaking work of Dr. Aaron Beck – and the themes are consistent with the KPMG study.  Every feeling that you have is created by thoughts.  Therefore, change your thoughts and you can change your feelings – including happiness.

The incredibly compelling part of focusing on gratitude, positive experiences and kindness is that once you train your brain to change the pattern of how it works, you get better results.  When you get better results, you have even more great stuff to focus on which leads to more happiness.  More happiness leads to greater results and the cycle continues.

Unfortunately for many of us in sales, it can become a downward spiral just as quickly.  Focusing on the sale you missed, on the sales manager who is annoying you, or on the prospect who was rude can create, as Zig Ziglar calls it, “stinkin’ thinkin‘”.  Happiness and attitude go south and so do your sales.  They feed off each other and before you know it, you’re in a miserable slump.  Don’t let this happen to you!

Print out the 5 daily actions and start today turning them into habits.  A very small commitment of your time will pay tremendous dividends in both your happiness and your sales performance.  It could very well end up being the greatest investment you ever made!

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 10.35.59 PM

There are some common ingredients among top sellers.

Sugar and spice and everything nice is what the nursery rhyme says little girls are made of but what are the ingredients for sales success?  There are three as well, but you can’t simply buy them at the grocery store like you can sugar and spice.

The three key components that you need to have in good measure are 1) Activities 2) Skills and 3) Attitude.  Strikingly different from each other, they are rarely found together in the right proportion.  Each one deserves some specifics.

Activities – Activities are like the sugar.  The more you have, the sweeter the reward!  A great salesperson needs to understand what the key activities are that lead to sales success and then do lots of them.  Are you taking the proper actions that move buyers through the pipeline?  For most salespeople in traditional sales, these would include things such as leads generated, referrals received, outbound touches such as calls & emails, meetings set and proposals delivered.  For social selling, the activities could be posts, new connections made or conversations scheduled.

Skills – Skills are like adding spice to the selling process.  Without it, your activities will be bland. (OK – I’m stretching a bit to make the metaphor work.)  You need to possess the skills to make your prospecting activities effective and turn them into meetings.  You need to know how to manage your time, set & manage goals, adjust your selling style to the customer, do a great discovery meeting, present solutions, handle objections, move the buyer towards commitment and so on.

Attitude – This is the equivalent of “everything nice” because recent research clearly shows that having a positive attitude brings, on average, 34% greater sales.  See my recent post “Happiness Can Lead to More Sales” for more detail.  Without a positive attitude, you will be stopped in your tracks when you hit the inevitable challenges that selling involves.  A positive attitude ensures that the other two ingredients, activities and skills, are sustainable.

Do you really need to have all three of these to excel in sales?  Yes and no.  I’ve worked with many salespeople who make a decent living with 2 out of the 3.  For instance, I remember one very personable individual who I’ll call Marty who was part of my first client’s sales team.  Marty had a positive attitude.  He always had a smile and a high level of confidence.  He was also pretty skilled.  Even before training, he could clearly make effective prospecting calls and did a decent job in meetings too.  He made a good six figure income.  So what’s the problem?  Maybe nothing except that he could have done so much better if he had the third ingredient: activities.  To be blunt, he was lazy.  He would go for 2 hour lunches at least a few times a week.  At 5 o’clock, you’d better not be standing near the door for fear of Marty running you over on his way out.  I did an analysis of Marty’s funnel and conversion rates and found that for him to earn $15,000 more that year, which was his goal, he only had to spend 45 more minutes prospecting per week.  You might ask, who wouldn’t put 9 more minutes in per day to make 15 grand more?  Maybe you would but not Marty.  It didn’t happen because Marty was in the “comfort zone” and refused to do any additional activities.

On the other hand, I’ve seen some who have have an incredible work ethic, doing massive amounts of activities with wonderfully positive attitudes but have only moderate skills.  Fortunately, these people have the best chance of improving their income from a sales development program because skills are easier to change than the other two ingredients.

Each of these 3 ingredients can be developed to varying degrees.  Your takeaway action is to set a goal for the next 12 months how you’re going to grow each of them.  After that, make a list of things that you can do in the next 30 days to get you started.  The last step is to schedule an action that you will take tomorrow.

By focussing on the fine balance of these key ingredients, you will experience everything nice that a great career in sales can bring!