Great salespeople are made not born.
Feel free to call us: +1 416 456 1440

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



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.

attraction-marketingIf your customer likes you, will it lead to more sales?


The link between “Like-Ability” — being liked by your customer — and increases in sales, is a hotly debated topic at live workshops that I lead.  Some of the comments that I typically hear are:


“Selling is all about relationships.  My customer has to like me to buy from me!”


“I’m in a competitive business.  The fact that a customer likes me more than the competitor’s rep is what sets us apart.”


Applying Economics 101 to the issue, the question becomes, “What is the correlation between the amount the customer likes the sales rep and their inclination to buy from that rep?”


I try to base the strategies at Northbound Sales on research and not just anecdotal evidence but the research on this topic is pretty light.  Some experts claim that being liked by your customer is akin to gaining admission to a club.  That is, if the customer likes you, you’ll gain the privilege of being considered but if they don’t like you, you won’t even be considered.  This makes sense to me.


Neil Rackham, the father of the consultative selling approach, found in his research that led to the SPIN Selling revolution that the relationship between being liked and increased sales was weak.  Although there was a very slight correlation in general, it was limited to rural areas.  Just as most people would guess, it is true that customers in smaller communities will choose to buy more often from a salesperson they like.  In dense urban areas, his immense research found that although customers might “like” one company’s rep more, they were more likely to buy from the rep who provided the most compelling solution to their problems.


Bottom line is that if you can’t find your customer’s problems and link them to your unique solutions, they can like you more than any salesperson they’ve ever met, but it won’t close the sale for you.  What I find in working with people in the field is that they spend too much time on pleasantries and small talk at the expense of solving the customer’s problems.


I’m reminded of my ride-alongs with Jim, a rep for a national supplier to furniture manufacturers.  When I do ride-alongs, I track how much time is spent on the different steps of the sales call.  In Jim’s case, when he learned that his customer built cabinetry for 2 large national chicken specialty restaurants, the conversation shifted to an open discussion on which restaurant had the best chicken!  Out of a 43 minute sales call, how much time was spent on sharing how the new product might help the customer?  6 minutes.  How much time was spent debating chicken? 22 minutes!  When we got back into Jim’s car, I couldn’t help but question him.  “Jim, where were you going with all the talk about chicken?” to which he replied, “Mike, my customers buy from our company because they like me.  If they want to talk chicken, I talk chicken.”  I’d be very interested to ask the customer if they agree!


My biggest advice for you is this:  Yes, try to ensure the customer likes you but don’t think for a New York minute that this is a substitute for deep skills in finding your customer’s problems and helping them fix them.  Work on your “Goal Aligned Selling™” selling skills rather than talking about chicken.


To learn more about our “Goal Aligned Selling™” program or to arrange a complimentary workshop for your sales team, contact me at [email protected].


Happy Selling,




trial_closesTrial closes are important, but not as much as you might think.

Trial closes get a lot of coverage in sales literature as do closing techniques in general.  I believe they get far too much exposure.  The way many so called sales experts drone on about them, you’d think they were one of the biggest secrets to selling.  They aren’t.  The oft quoted acronym “The ABC’s of sales – Always Be Closing” is just plain wrong.

Let’s start with a couple of definitions.

Closing question = Any question that when answered in the affirmative, means that the customer has bought.  

An example of a closing question is, “Well, it sounds like there’s a good fit with what you’re looking for.  Shall we place the order?”

A trial close differs from a closing question in that there is a condition attached to it.

Trial close = A question that confirms the buyer’s interest in purchasing if certain conditions are met.

An example of a trial close would be, “If we could solve the problems we spoke of in a cost effective way, do you think we could do some business together?”  A trial close is like testing the water before you jump in.  It’s a way to gauge interest without asking the buyer for a full commitment.

How they help:

Trial closes are very powerful in helping understand where a buyer is in the decision making process.  You can more easily determine their level of seriousness in solving their problems with either your solution or your competitor’s.

They are also very helpful in fleshing out what obstacles might stand in the way of making the sale.  Often, the buyer will share what concerns they have or what things are most important to them.

What they won’t do:

A trial close will not save bad selling skill up to that point in the sale!  Too many times, salespeople fail to uncover problems with the buyer, fail to help the buyer understand the full negative implications of these problems and finally fail to convey in a compelling & ironclad manner how their solution will help.  And after failing on all fronts, these salespeople, because they’ve read to “ask for the order at least 3 times” go ahead and do a series of trial closes followed by repeated asking for the order.

If the customer isn’t convinced that a) they have a problem that urgently needs to be solved and b) you’re the best way to solve it, you can ask for the order until you’re blue in the face but it’s not going to help.  In fact, research shows that in large transactions, asking for the order more than once actually reduces your chances of closing.  This is when customers may openly show signs of frustration.

On the other hand, if you are skilled and have helped the customer understand why their problem is big enough to warrant solving now and have proved to them that you are going to solve it, a trial close will be low pressure, reasonable and natural.

I’m going to share a story of poor selling technique and how it can lead to disaster.  After dinner tonight, I got a call from the major bank that has the mortgage on our vacation property.  Naturally, when I saw the name pop up on call display, I answered it thinking that it must be important.

Here’s what I heard,

Salesperson: “Hi Mr. Caron.  It’s Keith calling from ABC Bank (name changed to protect the guilty) and I wanted to let you know about a special offer for selected mortgage customers.  Do you have a few minutes?”

Me: “I’ve got 2 minutes Keith.  Can you explain it to me in that time?”

Salesperson: “Sure.  Your mortgage is up for renewal at the end of July and I was wondering if you’d like to get a lower interest rate by choosing a longer term than you have now.” (trial close)

Me:  “Keith.  I’m looking at my calendar and it says March 3rd.  Why would I want to decide on that right now if it’s not due until the middle of the summer?” This objection came up because Keith failed to find the problem with leaving the decision until later.

Salesperson: “Well, nobody can predict where interest rates are going to go and it would give you greater certainty.”

Me: “Possibly but why would I want to make that decision now instead of leaving it until the summer.  Is that the only benefit?”  (I had to repeat my question)

Salesperson: “No.  It could also save you point one five percent interest.”

Me: “That doesn’t sound like much.” I’m getting frustrated at this point because I don’t see any meaningful problem that is being solved for me.

Salesperson: “It might not sound like much to you or I but a lot of people would disagree with us.”

Me: “Can you work out how much that would save me in dollars?”

Salesperson: “Sure.  Just give me a moment.”  I hear clicking sounds.  “Eight dollars per month.”

Me (chuckling): “Keith, for thirty two dollars, I don’t think it’s worth the time and hassle.” My frustration is turning to annoyance at this point.

Salesperson (chuckling along with me): “I understand Mr. Caron.  Have a good night.”

This is a beautiful example of trial closes and unconvincing objection handling being used in lieu of strong selling technique.

My advice is to worry less about closing and instead, focus on sharpening your problem finding skills through the use of well designed questions.  Follow that up with practice of connecting your product’s features and benefits to the solving of these problems.  Once you master these techniques, trial closes and full closes will be easy and natural and the best news is, they will be met with a “yes!”

Northbound’s Goal Aligned™ Selling program helps you understand your customer better and fit your solution to them.  To arrange a complimentary live workshop for your team, contact Michael Caron at [email protected] or 416.456.1440.

giving upBeing honest with your prospect that you’re giving up actually helps increase call-backs. 


Salespeople generally give up far too early when attempting to contact a customer in the prospecting phase.  But to make things worse, they don’t even let the prospect know that they are giving up.  This is a mistake.


After you’ve made several attempts to connect to a prospect through different means such as voicemail and email, sending a “final approach” message can be very effective in prompting a response.



Tell them this is your last message.


Your voicemail might sound something like this:

“Hi John.  As you know, I’ve left several messages for you over the last few weeks and haven’t been able to connect.  It’s hard for me to tell whether that’s because you’re just crazy busy or that you’re maybe not interested in learning how we might be able to BENEFIT and BENEFIT you.  Either way, I don’t want to become voicemail spam so I’m going to give up for now.  If you think it would make sense for us to talk, I’m at 416.555.1212.  Thanks.”


Sound harsh?  Yes, it is direct but it’s the absolute truth and the feedback we receive from our clients is that it has produced callbacks from prospects that salespeople were convinced they would never hear back from.  Let’s face it – you weren’t having any luck up to this point so what do you have to lose?


Do we know exactly why this technique works so well?  Not exactly.  We don’t know whether it creates a sense of responsibility from the prospect and makes them think, “Gee, I really should at least get back to this person.” or that it maybe forces prospects to realize that if they don’t return the message that they are going to miss an opportunity.  Maybe it’s human psychology that people often want things more when they think they might not be able to have them!  Whatever the reason, the important thing is that it works!


Inject some humour.
Some of our clients have had success using a little sarcastic humour in the final approach.  This message might sound something like, “I don’t know if this means that you’re not interested in how we might BENEFIT and BENEFIT you or that you’re so busy putting out fires that you can’t even get to your phone.”  This method is admittedly a bit cheeky and needs to done with a slightly defeated but cheerful tone to be effective.  Again, what have you got to lose?


These techniques are not a surefire way to get all prospects to call you back.  Aside from pretending that you’re calling from the lottery winnings office, nothing will guarantee this.  What this will do, however, is increase your callbacks. And incremental improvements in several areas adds up to big improvements overall.  A bigger problem is that salespeople just don’t try hard enough before they give up but that’s a topic for another post!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B – check in with production on delivery of orders

B – practice new voicemail technique and ask Bob for feedback

A – get monthly expenses report in


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

B – do rough plan for new deck in backyard

A – get anniversary gift

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

An “A” priority means that it’s “important and urgent” for the week while a “B” means that while important, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done this week.
Your days should start with a plan too of course, using the same A & B prioritization. Research shows that 10 minutes spent planning your day will give you approximately 60 minutes of increased productivity. That’s a 6:1 R.O.T.I. (return on time invested)!  With better time management, many graduates of our “Goal Aligned Time™” program report these results commonly.  Done for a week, that will give you the time to make about 25 more prospecting calls. Run that number through your sales funnel stats and you will be astonished by what this means in hard dollars.
Mark Twain famously said, “Eat a frog first thing in the morning and everything else you have to do in the day will seem easy.”  Eat your “frog” – do your toughest things that require the most focus – first thing.
Time Waster Number Two—The Email Black Hole
Just like a black hole, the gravitational attraction of email can suck you in just like a planet and once you’re in, there’s no turning back! Email is a very powerful communication tool but overused and often used improperly too. Don’t start your day with email. Start with a plan instead. You don’t need to respond to emails when they come in. Let them stack up and return them in batches at certain intervals in the day. Your average time/message will drop significantly! Low urgency emails can be left to clear at the end of day or even a couple of times/week. Be ruthless with deletion. I often delete messages without looking at them based on the subject and sender. The average person can speak at 120 words/minute yet only type at 30 words/minute.
Time Waster Number Three—Busy But Not Productive
You have three main tasks. Prospect, present and close. If you’re not doing one of these, then you’re not growing your sales. Do a time log for one week, noting your actual use of time in 1 hour blocks. At the end of the week note what activities were directly related to sales, admin and nonsense. You will be amazed where your time is actually going and as a bonus, your productivity will jump as you gain an awareness of this.
Time Waster Number Four—Interruptions
Whether it’s someone walking in to discuss last night’s “American Idol” or your email ringing each time you get a message, you lose much more than the time to chat or listen to the bell. Studies show that the average person, when interrupted, takes 6 minutes to get back to the same level of concentration prior to the interruption. Do the math: If you get interrupted just 5 times in an hour, you are operating at 50% effectiveness. Think about that next time you grab your smart (a misnomer in many ways) phone to check your most recent tweet!

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

Making Great Calls GTW ImageWith most phone calls resulting in voicemail, you need to leave one that will get your prospect to sit up and listen!

Voicemail is the norm when making chase calls to prospects. There is an inverse relationship between the size of a company and the ability to connect in person. That is, the bigger the company, the lower the chance of your prospect picking up the phone. The number of contact attempts divided by the number of connections with your prospect is called “contact ratio”. Sales reps that I’ve worked with report contact ratios on the high end of 30% and a mere 2% on the low.  With voicemail being the norm, how can we increase our chances of being called back? Here are 6 common mistakes that many salespeople make.

Mistake #1 – They don’t actually leave a message — I had to get this out of the way because I still run into some salespeople who have been trained (poorly albeit) to “never leave a message”. This makes no sense. Why would you give up the opportunity to get your valuable message into your customer’s ear? I actually prefer to get voicemail on the first attempt. Why? Because it paves the way for my next call. It makes clear the purpose of my call and what’s potentially in it for the prospect to have a conversation with me rather than just catching them off guard.

Think about it. When you are interrupted from doing something by an incoming sales call, what’s the quickest and easiest way to get back to what you were doing? That’s right — by saying no. Have you ever quickly said “No thanks!” to a telemarketer or a door-to-door salesperson (pre-COVID of course) and then thought later, “Hmm. I might have been interested in looking into that actually.” Even if it may be something you might be interested in buying, the natural knee-jerk reaction is to say no. By having your prospect listen to a well crafted voicemail prior to speaking with you, it can help prevent a knee jerk reaction.

Mistake #2 – They don’t have a Compelling Business Reason (CBR) — There must be a reason and perceived benefit for the listener to take time out of their busy day to have a conversation with you. Too many salespeople position the voicemail around how great they or their company is instead of what might be in it for the prospect to call you back.

Mistake #3 – They ask for too much — Your first goal in a chase call or voicemail should be to have a two-way conversation. Salespeople shouldn’t ask for a meeting without having first established G.A.S. — that is, value that they may be able to Gain for the prospect, future issues they may help them Avoid or current problems that they might help them Solve. A voicemail should be requesting a very low commitment — something as innocent as a brief conversation to see if here might be a fit between some challenges the prospect has and your company’s capabilities for instance.

Mistake #4 – They “wing it” — Some salespeople are against using a phone script. Common reasons are, “It sounds so fake”, “You can’t predict what the prospect is going to say”, or my personal favorite, “I like to mix it up so I sound fresh”. Unfortunately, these same people have little success in booking appointments and after listening to them in the field, it’s easy to see why. Their voicemails are all over the map — convoluted, weak and generally pointless in nature.

Yes, some people sound like they are reading when they use a script but only because they haven’t put the time in to practice it until it sounds natural. I do a little bit of amateur acting and on the first read-through of our scripts, it’s terrible. I sound 100% like I’m reading and that’s because I am! After rehearsing my lines literally hundreds of times over, however, it becomes a different story on opening night. A high priced Hollywood actor would never ask to roll the cameras until they know their lines down pat and neither should you.

Mistake #5 – They leave too much time in between voicemails — If you call your prospects once every few weeks, it’s easy to become forgotten. On the other hand, if you only leave a couple of days in between your calls to a prospect, you will be forefront and they will feel more compelled to respond. At the end of each voicemail you should say something like, “If you don’t get a chance to get back to me in the next couple of days, I’ll try you again on Thursday morning.” Your prospects will get the idea very quickly that you’re not going to be giving up anytime soon. Strike a reasonable balance between professionally persistent and stalking!

Mistake #6 – They act too submissive — If you act like a lesser business person grovelling for the prospect’s consideration, you have reduced yourself and the prospect will lose respect for you.  In reality, you are one business person requesting to speak to another business person to see if there may be a mutual benefit of working together. Approach the call from an Equal Business Footing (E.B.F.) perspective. Picture how you might strike up a casual chat with another person you meet in a park while walking your dogs together. You’d be relaxed and casual – not pushy or threatening. That’s how you should think of your prospect when you’re leaving a voicemail. If you sound laid-back, confident, open and honest, your prospect will be much more likely to want to speak with you.