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


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. 

Joined in businessAn Unpleasant but Often Necessary Part of Selling

Contrary to what some think, negotiating isn’t something that only takes place at the end of the selling process. We are actually negotiating and laying the groundwork for further negotiations 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 6 essentials.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Make a concession list – make a list of all the things that you could give up and all the things they could give up. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 . . . “

6. 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 and your team can learn to produce stronger relationships and more equitable and profitable business interactions with Northbound’s Goal Aligned™ Negotiations workshop. For more information or pricing, contact Michael Caron at [email protected], 416.456.1440

originalIs there a magic number of attempts before calling it quits?

I’m bombarded with this question when I’m delivering a prospecting workshop.  I usually pass it back to the group to sound in before I give my explanation.  “Never” is often tossed out as is any number between 1 and 10!  Like many sales methodologies, the correct answer, although it seems evasive, is “it depends.”

Recent research reveals some statistics that can help us.  A study by M.I.T. found that it takes on average 7 telephone contact attempts for a salesperson to get through to a prospective customer.  This has shot up from 4 in the 90’s.  Of course pre-internet, the phone was the primary method of reaching out with your message when prospecting.  With remote work, email, texting and people putting their phones on voicemail virtually all the time, it’s much harder to get through to a live person these days.

So how many voicemails and/or emails should you leave before moving on to greener pastures?  Some of the factors to consider when deciding on a reasonable number are:

1) How potentially lucrative is this prospect?  Is it a whale or a minnow?  Whales are worth a lot more effort.

2) What types of prospecting touches have you used in addition to phone?  Regular mail, email, LinkedIn InMail and even faxes are often very effective when used in conjunction with phone calls.  I don’t recommend using text when prospecting.  Most people find it very intrusive coming from strangers.

3) Has the prospect given you any clues as to their level of interest?  If you have something that shows interest, it makes sense to keep going.

4) How high up in the organization is the prospect?  Generally, the higher the position the more tenacity will be required to connect with them.

In general, I suggest you leave a minimum of 5 voicemails over a period 3 weeks and combine this with at least 2 other types of contact attempts before you give up on the prospect . . . for now.  Park it for 3 to 6 months and then go back to it.

Don’t make the mistake of many salespeople who wrongly assume that if the prospect doesn’t get back to them after a couple of attempts that “I guess their not interested.”  It doesn’t mean that at all.  People are busy and returning a sales call is a B-52 priority for most people.  It doesn’t mean that they have no interest at all.  It most often just means that they aren’t going to put it at the top of their to-do list.  Case in point – since starting Northbound, the company has made approximately 15,000 prospecting calls, 10,000 emails and delivered 1,500 regular mail packages.  We have actually spoken to approximately 2,500 of these prospects.  How many have told us something to the effect of “If I were interested, I would have called you back?”  A grand total of TWO!

Invariably, what we hear is something like this: “I’m so sorry I haven’t called you back.  We’ve just been crazy around here.”  They apologize most of the time!

While it’s crazy to never give up, I bet you’re stopping far too early when prospecting.  Don’t be scared to crank that number up and you’ll be rewarded by much higher contact ratios.

For more strategies on prospecting, check out our workshop, Connecting to the Big Cheese.


Protect your margins while increasing your closing rate

Naturally, we always want to sell value and reduce the times that customers ask you for a price discount, but regardless of your attempts, you will not be able to avoid them. You always have the ability to say no and lose the sale but if you are willing to reduce your margin and still make the sale, you are going to need to enter the dance of price negotiations.
There are certain steps to follow. Before you even start the process, you should assure the prospect that your price is fair. If and when they continue pushing for a discount, follow these steps:
Step One: Ask why they are asking for a discount. This may sound like a strange thing to ask but can be helpful when the prospect is forced to explain. Often they have weak reasons and some will ease off when they can’t come up with anything better than, “I’d like to pay a lower price”. Sometimes, negotiations may even stop right there when the prospect returns with, “Well, I had to ask.”
Step Two: The next step is to offer something in kind rather than discounting your price. Trade of your product or service always costs less than a cash discount. You could say something like, “I’d really like to have your business and if you’d like to get additional value, I can offer you (blank).” What you offer will be specific to your company and industry but try to make it something that has low cost to you and high perceived value to the prospect.
Some ideas may be: additional service, better payment terms, free shipping, future volume discounts etc. Your goal is to maintain your price integrity while giving up something that costs you little.
Step Three: If you must discount further, never give up something without getting something in return. This is a basic rule of negotiation. If you simply discount, you have opened the door for the prospect to keep asking for discounts now and into the future. Using the same concept as barter, you can give a discount in return for something that is high value to you yet low cost to the client. It could be references, quicker payment terms, volume guarantees, exclusive vendor arrangements, introductions to other internal departments, etc.
Step Four: If you truly believe you must give a discount in order to secure the business, do it slowly and with a good amount of resistance. If you quickly concede, the prospect might say to themselves, “That was easy. I’m going to keep going” Do not get caught on the treadmill of discounting whereby the prospect asks for a discount and you give it only to have the prospect ask for more. It’s a deadly downward spiral and can be prevented by the next step.
Step Five: Try not to give a discount without an agreement that if you agree to X discount, the prospect will buy. You could say something like, “I don’t know if I can give a discount of what you’re asking for George but if I can, does that mean that you’re willing to go ahead. The last thing you want to do is to offer a discount that’s only going to be used as leverage to squeeze another vendor’s price who ends up getting the sale.
The best way to handle discount requests is to reduce them! And the best way to reduce them is to work on building perceived value—right from the first contact while prospecting through to doing a proper “Goal Aligned Sales Interview.” If the prospect truly sees that you and your company provide value and advantages over your competitors, they will be less willing to risk NOT doing business with you by pushing for unreasonable discounts.
Remember, dropping your price is the quickest and easiest tactic for a salesperson to help close. It takes little skill but comes at a high cost in terms of margins and commissions. Talented sales professionals—ones who can truly build value—discount far less often than less skilled salespeople. Our recommendation is to focus heavily on improving your selling skills so that you will need to deal with discounting less frequently and protect your margins and commissions now and down the road.

Northbound’s “Handling Objections” workshop walks you and your team through a six step process that will allow you to deal with discount requests and other objections like a pro.  For details contact Michael Caron at [email protected] 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 by the end of the day 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.