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


Knowing where your time is being used will allow you to spend more time on the sales activities that make you money.

I don’t read many books but at least I try to implement good ideas from the ones I do get around to reading.  One of the oldest books on my shelf that is still in my top 10 is “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  The chapter on time management speaks of all activities in you life fitting into one of four quadrants.  The concept is that there are two variables that can be attached to any activity you engage in.

1) Level of urgency

2) Level of importance.

Plotting one of these against the other produces four quadrants as in the diagram below.  Armed with this insight, you’ll be able to make better choices deciding what you’re going to spend your time on and be more effective.

Importance vs. Urgency

Let’s first be sure we understand the difference between urgency and importance as people often confuse them with each other.  “Importance” represents the amount of value that this activity brings to you.  A good example would be preparing a proposal for a big prospect.  On the other hand, “urgency” refers to how quickly it needs to be done.  Responding to a complaint from your biggest customer is a good example of an urgent activity.  Combining both urgency and importance allow us to place them in quadrants 1 through 4.  You’ll see some examples of common activities also noted in the diagram.

You Need to Spend More Time in Quadrant 2

The problem is when we end up spending most of our time reacting to urgent activities, quadrants 1 & 3, the important.  The non-urgent activities in quadrant 2 take a back seat — sometimes forever!  People who live in the world of urgency often love the thrill of the accompanying adrenaline and cortisol rush but fail to grow.  They often find themselves languishing in key areas of their career and life.  We’ve all heard the stories of hard driving executives whose health or marriage is failing.

Majoring in the minors

Closer to home, I’ve see countless salespeople who want greater sales success but can’t manage to find the time to attend training sessions or do 1 more hour of prospecting each week.  They spend their time on low value, urgent things or even worse, low importance, low urgency activities like social apps or watching Netflix.  They “major in the minors.”  I know catching up on social and TV can be very entertaining and addictive.  If it’s at the expense of building your career, getting healthy or spending time with your kids, however, I’d argue that it’s not the best use of your time.

Why does this happen?  Because quadrant 2 activities take planning and discipline to happen.  They don’t just appear out of nowhere crying for your attention whereas urgent activities, by definition, do.  If you don’t workout today, what’s the big deal?  It won’t kill you — at least not today.  If you don’t make those 3 extra calls, it’s not going to kill your career — at least not today.

Your Homework Assignment

Set the alarm on your phone or watch to alert you every half hour.  When it goes off, write down what you did in the last 30 minutes.  Do this for 3 days and then mark beside each item which quadrant it falls into.  Add them up in total time.  I promise you that you will be shocked when you see how much time you are spending in quadrants 3 & 4.  I know you will want to spend more time on quadrant 2 activities.  The good news is that after this exercise, it will start to happen as you gain increased awareness and focus of where your time is going.

Effective people are experts in managing their time and have developed a ruthless approach to “time suckers.”  Apply this knowledge and you too can be one of these people.

Happy selling.


The use of scale questions will help uncover more sales opportunities.

We all know that good questions are the most powerful tool in sales.  But some are markedly better than others.  One of the most powerful types is the scale question.  What’s a scale question? (Good question!)  A scale question is one that asks your buyer to answer on a scale, usually from 1 to 10.

To understand why they are so helpful in sales, we need to take a step back.  Solutions, by definition, can only exist if there is a problem.  Although many companies claim they sell “X solutions” it’s often not possible because their salespeople haven’t uncovered legitimate problems from the potential buyer that their solution can solve.  It’s the dreaded trap of “a solution in search of a problem.”

Needs begin with problems and problems only exist when their is a gap between where someone is currently and where they’d like to be.  This is commonly called the “tension for change.” Some might have an issue referring to this “tension for change” or gap as a problem.  They might prefer to call it an opportunity instead.  It really doesn’t matter what you choose to call it, however.  What’s important is that we realize that without a gap, there is no possibility for a sale.  The potential buyer sees no reason to change from the status quo.  On the other hand, the bigger the gap, the more motivated a buyer will be to find a solution.

Tension for Change Graphic

During the discovery phase of a sale, a good strategy is to establish what the key result areas are for the customer and then uncover the level of satisfaction in these areas.  Here’s an example of a simple way to do this.

You: “John, could you share with me the 3 or 4 most important criteria to you in choosing a (your industry) partner?

Prospect: “Price is most important.”

You: “OK.  And besides price, what would be next important?”

Prospect: “Great service.”

You: “OK.  Could you be more specific as to what great service looks like to you?”

Prospect: “I’d like to see my rep every couple of months.  I’d also like to have my phone calls returned quickly and my emails not as quick but still pretty quick.”

You: “So why is great service so important to you?”

Prospect: “If I have an issue and it doesn’t get fixed PDQ, it can cost us a lot.  Plus it’s very frustrating not being able to get a hold of somebody with the vendor we use now.”

You: “So, if you were to rate the service you’re getting now from your current vendor, say on scale of one to ten, what do you think you’d say?”

Prospect: “Oh I don’t know.  Maybe six.”

You: “OK.  So is it fair to say that there’s room for improvement here?”

Prospect: “For sure.”

Repeat the above for at least 2 other areas.  Through this process, you’ll have identified several problems — areas that are important to the customer and that he’d now like to do better in.  You’ll see that in most cases, the customer concludes that they are not as satisfied as they could be in key areas and how the “gap” has negative implications.  If you simply asked them to tell you what problems they have with their current vendor, not only will you get less valuable information, but they might also say, “I’ve got none.”  At this point, you have nowhere to go except out the door!

Your homework for this week:

1) Come up with a scale question that will help uncover an area that you have a competitive advantage in.

2) Use it on your sales calls this week.

You should have your own list of questions that you constantly refer to in sales calls.  If you don’t have any pre-written ones, these will give you a great start!

Northbound’s workshop “Questions Are the Answer” teaches you and your team the consultative approach to selling then helps you create dozens of powerful questions that you can immediately use to grow your sales.  For more information or for pricing, contact Michael, [email protected].

Compound Interest

The concept of compounding works for investing – in both your finances and your sales career.

Most everyone understands the power of compounding. In a nutshell, small increases in anything multiplied by more small increases over a long period of time produces a hockey stick curve of massive increases. Compounding can produce powerful increases in your sales results too. That is, small improvements in your selling skills from sales training and equally small increases in your activity levels can produce massive increases in overall sales.

Let’s take a look below at the different stages of a sale for a typical salesperson who we will call Kevin Kloser.

Like many salespeople, Kevin makes outbound prospecting calls and attempts to connect with decision makers. In this case he makes 100 calls (and/or emails) monthly and, on average, ends up connecting to 20 prospects equaling a 20% contact ratio.

Out of the 20 conversations, he generates enough interest for 4 of the conversations to lead to meetings – a 20% booking ratio.

Finally, with a closing rate of 25%, 1 out of 4 meetings results in a sale. This example is a 4 step funnel, meaning there are 4 distinct steps between first contact attempt and conclusion of the first sale. You may have more or fewer stages in your selling process but the concept remains the same regardless.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.35.34 PM

Now, let’s see what happens when Kevin does some good sales training (and more importantly implements it). Kevin learns how to leave better voicemails and uses other powerful strategies to increase his connection rate from 20% to 24% immediately.

This results in connections to almost 9 more people.  He learns how to engage the customer on the phone in such a way that they want to learn more about his product or service.  This bumps up his number of meetings booked by 20% which now equals almost 7 when combined with his higher contact ratio.

When in “discovery” meetings, he gets better at uncovering the customer’s true issues, challenges and problems and is able to connect his solutions to these in a compelling way. This causes his closing ratio to increase from 25% to 30%. Armed with fresh and proven ideas, increases of 20% in these skill areas are very realistic. In my experience, it’s not uncommon for salespeople who apply themselves to become 100% better in these areas!

In addition to growing his skills, Kevin also learns how to manage his time better so he can make 20% more contact attempts through phone calls, emails or social selling platforms. The “Kloser + 20%” column below illustrates what happens to Kevin’s sales results. Incredibly, he has more than doubled his sales!

Kloser plus twenty percent

Can you get 20% better?

I’m confident that you can if you’re committed. After mentally making the commitment, the next step to doubling your sales is to get yourself or your sales team some great training. Click here for a complete list of workshop topics that Northbound can deliver to your team to help you with your own “20% Solution.”

Happy Selling!

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 2024.  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 [email protected] or 416.456.1440.

VoicemailWhen prospecting, don’t miss an opportunity to use voicemail to deliver your value message.

Are you frustrated constantly by trying to connect to buyers when prospecting and getting their voicemail? I hear this complaint from many of our clients.

Times have changed. In the early 90’s before voicemail was ubiquitous, studies showed that one business person attempting to contact another business person would get through 22% of the time. Sounds low doesn’t it? But it gets worse. Spurred on by the pandemic, the work-from-home trend makes getting people at their desk next to impossible and today’s stats are more like 10% or even less. That means that 9 out of 10 times, you’re going to get voicemail when doing cold prospecting.

What I find crazy is how many salespeople don’t leave a voicemail when they’re calling a buyer.  By not leaving a message, they are missing a great opportunity!

Instead of looking at this marvel of communication engineering as being your enemy, it can be your friend – at least in the short term. Before you say I’ve lost my selling marbles, let me explain. How many of you can convey a compelling description of your product’s benefits and features in 30 words or less?  Some of you may be able but wouldn’t it be nice if you had a full minute? Of course it would.  A good prospecting voicemail can do just that for you.

There’s a big difference between getting a prospect on the phone right off the bat and being able to leave a voicemail message first.   I far prefer to leave a carefully crafted, practiced, voicemail message as my first voice contact with a prospective customer. You can’t get cut off, you can build some “personality” and trust and with many systems, you also have the added benefit of erasing it and doing it again if you screw up. Be careful to leave the message as best you possibly can and finish before trying to erase it though in case you can’t!

Just like in advertising, multiple impressions are often required before a message registers with someone.  Each time your buyer hears what’s possibly “in it for him” to have a conversation with you, it helps strengthen your case.

Obviously you eventually want to connect in real time with the prospect and there are specific techniques to drastically increase your chances when the time is right but that will have to wait for a future post.

Using voicemail to your advantage is part of Northbound’s “Connecting to the Big Cheese” workshop.  To arrange a complimentary condensed version of the workshop for your team, contact Michael Caron @ [email protected] or 416.456.1440.

Our live instructor-led online program, Goal Aligned™ Selling, will give you the skills & strategies to close more sales. 

Last fall, we launched our Goal Aligned™ Selling program for individual salespeople and the feedback was fantastic!

If you’re a sales manager, this is a perfect way to develop solid foundational selling skills for a select few members of your team!

B2B selling is evolving and is more challenging than ever and you’ll need to equip yourself with sharper selling skills to capitalize on every sales opportunity. Our 8 module Goal Aligned™ Selling program equips you with the essential skills, strategies & tools that will not only help you exceed your target this year, but also set you up for greater sales success for years down the road.  

You will be part of a small cohort of like-minded sales professionals and be taken through a carefully honed module each week.

When? 8 weekly 2-hour Zoom sessions lead by our Founder & President, Michael Caron

What’s included? Includes PDF workbooks, field exercises & customizable templates, 90-day email reinforcement, networking with fellow participants

What’s the cost? $1,395

200% Guarantee Your fee is totally refundable if you’re not completely convinced that Northbound’s program has given you skills and strategies to at least double your investment in the first year!

Recordings All sessions will be recorded for exclusive access for 60 days after

Nov 15 – Bulls Eye!How to set and reach your goals
Nov 22 – Goal Aligned™ Time:Manage your most precious resource
Nov 29 – Selling to Different Buyer Types:Learn how to adjust your selling style for all types of buyers
Dec 6 – Connecting to the Big Cheese:Connect to high level prospects and book meetings with them
Dec 13 – Questions Are the Answer:Learn how to create and deliver the most powerful tool in your toolbox
Jan 3 – Goal Aligned™ Sales Interviews:Uncover your buyer’s needs in face-to-face or virtual selling situations
Jan 10 – Goal Aligned™ Sales Presentations:Deliverpowerful presentations that will close the sale
Jan 17 – Handling Objections:Learn how to deal with price and many other common objections that get in the way of making the sale.

To reserve a spot or for more information, contact Michael at [email protected].

We’ve all spent a big chunk of our life in formal learning environments, most commonly called schools! Over the course of a decade or two, we acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge — some of it useful, most of it not. Unfortunately, once we enter the working era of our life, our rate of knowledge acquisition falls off. This makes sense in that we are now expected to use this knowledge. But the really successful people in all walks of life never stop learning.

In training thousands of salespeople over the years, I’ve clearly seen that top performers are actually more open to learning new skills than average performers. How ironic!

There are 5 phases to learning. Take a look at the list and ask yourself, “What can I do to apply all 5 phases to a new selling skill?”

The Five Phases of Learning

Phase 1 — Commit to learn

  • The learner must be motivated to learn and to change his or her

behaviour. During the central training experience, learning activities and media illustrate

how new skills, knowledge, and attitudes help learners address job-related issues and

achieve job-related goals. This phase succeeds when learners open themselves to new

possibilities and resolve to master and apply essential interpersonal skills.

Phase 2 — Assess current performance.

  • A carefully crafted survey helps learners measure current

levels of knowledge and application of a key interpersonal skill. Recognizing their

own performance gaps further motivates learners and helps them focus effort in areas

for improvement. Post-training assessments measure recollection of training content

and skill use in the workplace.

Phase 3 — Acquire knowledge. 

  • Learners encounter the cognitive details of a distinct interpersonal

skill through presentation, reading, discussion, observation and analysis of realistic

examples, simulations, and other activities. Typical content includes environmental

cues that prompt skill use; a sequence of behavioural steps; relevant terms; examples of

use and absence of use; and tips, tactics, and pitfalls for each step.

Phase 4 — Develop competence through practice. 

  • The training of interpersonal skills requires

rehearsing with humans—the intended audience for the new skills—in order to achieve

competency. This real-time practice with another human being, whether face-to-face,

voice-to-voice or online, is essential to soft-skill mastery. In a safe setting, learners

rehearse the skill, receive constructive feedback, observe others using the skill and

offer constructive feedback. The goal of this is to develop baseline competence and

build confidence.

Phase 5 — Apply new learning. 

  • Integrating new skills into job interactions requires commitment.

A range of activities—discussions, testimonials, printable online planners, and others—

give learners the clarity and resolve to apply their knowledge and skills. Managers

of trainees can also reinforce and sustain skill application through coaching, recognition

of skill use and modelling the skills.