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Customer Relationships

Let’s state the obvious here: Your customer is your business and customer satisfaction is crucial to the success of your business.So how are you measuring customer satisfaction? If you’re like most businesses, you’re using customer feedback surveys. (And if you’re not, you should get on board.)

Read Time: 6 Minutes

Starting off the day is tough when our most annoying client calls in with the usual simple problem that he is over-reacting to. We sigh and answer the phone - all while making the facial gestures of a person eating oysters for the first time in their life.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity…” but how often are you preparing for or thinking about adding value to a client relationship?

You need to be able to actively listen and actually involve yourself in what the customer is telling you about their situation.

Friendships are a natural aspect of business. We work closely with clients and are bound to create a rapport. However, too much emotional interaction can cloud sound business development. Professionals need to keep a healthy separation from emotion and business.

One of the most important skills a customer care provider can have is the ability to read, evaluate and act on a situation.

Ask any customer care provider who their customer is and they will answer: present customers, past lapsed customers or new prospects who may need our products and services.

Learning how to assert yourself in a way that is nurturing and relationship-building, is a skill that frontline people must develop.

Our attitude and beliefs around each of our customers should come from the perspective of what the lifetime value of that customer brings to our company, and ourselves.

Sean Coyle, Sandler trainer, prospecting expert, and David H Sandler Award winner talks about how to lower defensive walls and build rapport quickly in a sales call. Learn the attitudes, behaviors, and techniques of master salespeople and prospectors who can quickly and easily build trust with their prospects.

If you want to be a good customer care provider, understand where your communication blind spots, or gaps, and work on constant improvement to your communication skills every day.

Learn how to engage and partner with gatekeepers to get to more decision-makers. Sean Coyle is Sandler's prospecting expert and host of the online course. In this episode, Sean talks about the attitudes, behaviors, and techniques of top sellers and how they interact with gatekeepers and admins. 

How many times have you had a conversation with a customer thinking one thing was going to happen only to find your expectations were misread? Establishing a strong up-front contract with the other person on what is to happen next is a good way of initially defining expectations.

We need to fix two things: we need to fix the problem and we need to fix the customer.

I am optimistic for Barrow, Hanley, Mewhinney & Strauss after reading about them hiring Bill Braxton as Director of Client Development. Dedicating sales talent to a market segment that is in the company’s core skill set but which has not received adequate focus is often a fast track to new clients.

Every new behavior is learned, and the sooner we try things, the sooner we’ll get more comfortable with it

Learn how to do a simple five-part client satisfaction call using the RECON framework. Caroline Robinson, Sandler trainer from the UK, talks about checking in with your clients and getting on the same page.

Never contribute to a customer's explosion, and never react by saving stamps of your own.

Customer relationships are the lifeblood of any sellers’ career. The ability to attract clients, build rapport, and start sales conversations ultimately determines the level of success that a salesperson will enjoy. You can be an extreme specialist who knows all the tricks of the trade, but without supplementing your knowledge with interpersonal communication skills, you’ll fail to connect with your clients or prospects on a deeper level. Building rapport is essential to turn yourself from a transactional seller into a trusted partner. Below I’ve outlined four ways to strengthen your bond with clients.

To work with customers, either selling or in customer service, you must believe in your products and services, in your company, and most importantly, in yourself.

The more opportunities you have to interact with your clients, the better, and the beginning of the year is an opportune time to reach out and reconnect with your clients and prospects to get in front of them in the new year.

The more opportunities you have to interact with your prospects, the better, and the end of the year is an opportune time to reach out and reconnect with your clients and prospects to get in front of them prior to the new year.

Has your frontline service team ever driven away prospects that actually wanted to buy? It’s a scary thought.

It’s vital that companies anticipate what their clients need currently and what they will need in the future. That’s shouldn’t be an earth shattering revelation to anyone in sales, but many organizations let complacency rule rather than positioning themselves for the future. Client needs drive your business, so make it a priority to anticipate those needs and be positioned to offer a solution.

I was recently visiting a client’s office where there were some unusual posters on the walls of their lunch room. All around the room, at eye level were the results of their monthly customer care surveys. Each month was represented by the results of a quick ‘Likert’ survey completed by customers.

Getting started in sales, or increasing your success once you’ve established yourself, can be a very challenging task. One of the hardest parts of this process is securing leads. What’s even harder is ensuring those leads are qualified.

To grow as a salesperson, mastering this aspect of your career is key. Below I have identified three ways to get qualified referrals. Incorporating these simple tips will help you step up your referral game and uncover a path to new levels of success.

On the front lines our days are a series of conversations with both customers and our internal partners. Choosing our words typically comes naturally, without much thought. We may choose our tonality carefully, but often don't consider the actual words we're using.

The How to Succeed Podcast is a public and free podcast from Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations around the globe.

Mario was well ahead of his monthly quota, so he was surprised when Jane, his sales manager, asked him to set a higher sales target for the quarter

During their meeting, Mario smiled and said, “I thought I’d get a gold medal after the good month I just had – not a higher target!”

Is the customer's problem your problem? Most customer service professionals will say "yes" but their day-to-day interactions don't always back up the statement. It's not uncommon for customer care professionals to fall into a routine and begin interacting with clients in an egotistical way.

Welcome to Selling the Sandler Way, with your host Dave Mattson, the president and CEO of Sandler Training. He is a five-time bestselling author, speaker, trainer, and consultant to hundreds of international organizations. In this show, he talks to other Sandler trainers about the Sandler Selling System.

The How to Succeed Podcast is a public and free podcast from Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations around the globe.

Business development is fast-paced now and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the clutter of new techniques, emerging technologies, and more specialized analytics. Although those components – and some others – can play a major role in your level of success, it would be a mistake to spend too much time on them and ignore the basics.

The sales industry is fast-paced now and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the clutter of new selling techniques, emerging technologies, and more specialized analytics. Although those components – and some others – can play a major role in your level of success. It would be a mistake to spend too much time on them and ignore the basics. Before you get carried away learning this or that, remember to take it back to your roots and ensure that you are providing optimum customer service. If you have strayed a bit or are just looking for a reminder, below are five imperative tactics to employ in your practice.

Summer can be a challenging time for businesses. Reduced productivity from individuals going on vacations or taking time off can lead to poor customer care.

In this episode of Selling the Sandler Way, Dave Mattson, the President and CEO of Sandler Training explores the Sandler Selling Philosophies behind the Sandler Selling System with Michael Norton, EVP of Global Accounts at Sandler Trainer.

Using social media for customer service management is a relatively new concept but one that has really caught on. Like most technological advances there are some ways to use social media that are highly effective and provide your costumers with just what they want.

Businesses spend significant time and effort in attracting customers to a product or service. But a post-sale follow up with customers, is often neglected or a short term initiative right after a sale. While getting initial feedback is a good way to develop our product and service, getting longer term feedback allows us to build strong lasting relationships with customers.

You just received an email from the chain hotel where you stayed last night. Along with offering its gratitude, the hotel is seeking your feedback through a survey–offered in the interest of continuous improvement. You’re asked to provide satisfaction ratings for some very important categories the hotel has chosen.

It's always nice to have options. When customer service professionals are faced with a situation where a client is not going to receive what they were promised, it's a good idea to have options for the client that will help alleviate the problem. However, those options need to make sense. In an attempt to alleviate problems customer service professionals sometimes present solutions that don't really address the client's issue.

Managing client expectations can help you make the most of your new relationship and ensure you are striking the right balance. By working together to outline goals, define success, and clearly communicating your progress and milestones, you can increase transparency to build the long lasting relationship with your new client.

You’ve closed the deal – but your job isn’t done quite yet. Managing client expectations can help you make the most of your new relationship and ensure you are striking the right balance. By working together to outline goals, define success, and clearly communicating your progress and milestones, you can increase transparency to build the long lasting relationship with your new client.

No one likes to be wrong. Worse yet people hate to admit when they are wrong. This can be especially damaging in a customer service situation where a customer service provider relays incorrect information and then needs to backtrack. Customers lose faith in the competency of the product or service, customer service reps often get defensive, and neither party leaves the interaction with a sense of accomplishment. Overcome this limitation by double checking information and indulging customer requests.

Meeting customer's expectations is a common focus but engagement is frequently overlooked. That's a costly mistake because our focused attention and engagement, our presence, affects how customers perceive us.

Writing out commitments and next steps can save customer care professionals from time consuming and disruptive misunderstandings.

Check for a customer service candidate’s overall people skills before you make any hiring decision!

I heard a story recently that perfectly illustrates how Customer Service teams can help increase revenues.

Sales and customer service have an opportunity for symbiosis that is often not utilized. This failure often arises from a lack of communication or infighting. Setting up communication channels between sales and customer service helps prevent inter-company resentment and sets positive customer experience as the shared team goal.

This customer service model exemplifies the concept that it's the small, thoughtful gestures that often win over new customers.

How much attention are you paying to the expectations of your clients? If your behavior is too disconnected from their expectations you are likely to encounter conflicts in unexpected ways.

According to Entrepreneur, we receive 193.3 billion emails every day. On average, that means each person's inbox is hit by about 120 emails a day – with some people receiving less and some receiving many more. Breaking through to your target audience when you're up against such odds can be tough. Even with all the inbox competition, email marketing can be quite lucrative when handled correctly. 

Just like all the other areas of a company—the warehouse, the accounting department, shipping—customer care is a process. In fact, it typically involves a number of processes, such as incoming order processing, returns and re-stocking, setting up new accounts and solving customer problems. If a customer-care candidate does not already have a process orientation, it will be an uphill battle to instill one.

Just like all the other areas of a company—the warehouse, the accounting department, shipping—customer care is a process. In fact, it typically involves a number of processes, such as incoming order processing, returns and re-stocking, setting up new accounts and solving customer problems. If a customer-care candidate does not already have a process orientation, it will be an uphill battle to instill one. Consider the following true story.

I recently shared my experience at a local car dealership with a friend and raved about the excellent service I had received. Everything was exceptional.

Instead of repeating the same customer service behaviors over and over with customers who have their unique characteristics and preferences, every employee must learn how to adjust their customer service style from one customer to the next. If we do not do this, some customers are left disappointed, even when the customer service standards have been met.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review asked the question: Why are we trying to delivery spectacular customer service? They surveyed 10,000 businesses and asked about their expectations around deliverables in customer care. The results were rather surprising.

The key to a good client interaction is being recognized as an expert through the questions asked not the quantity of information given.

Communicate in a personal manner. Most salespeople are so focused on their work that they don’t take enough time to meet with, talk to, and listen to their customers.

It’s important to make clients feel appreciated so that a strong bond is formed and loyalty is increased.

It’s important to make clients feel appreciated so that a strong bond is formed and loyalty is increased.

Customer care providers are in a powerful position to build relationships and long term loyalty.

Even when you think that a customer will or should buy, there is a subtlety to approaching the order in a way that is comfortable for customers.

They have valuable opinions, insider knowledge on customers, experience with products and services … tap into this wealth for the good of the company.

Target your best clients that appreciate your service and use them to generate valuable referrals.

It is the entire organization that needs to be indoctrinated in the attitudes, behaviors and techniques that make for great customer service.

If you follow these three simple steps – understand the true goal of your communication, send the right subtle “I’m listening” signals as the other person is speaking, and restate key content to prove you really were listening – you’ll have better conversations, gather high-quality information, and make better recommendations. Last but certainly not least, you’ll improve your closing ratio!

Wizards are a reflection of four key aspects of customer service delivery.

In the theater, the "fourth wall" is the wall between the actors and the audience. Behind this wall - the world of the actors is exactly as the audience imagines it. The Fourth Wall of Customer Service is similar.

It’s important that all professionals are empowered with flexibility to deal with client problems and held accountable to meeting client needs.

"Moments of Truth" seems to be a catch phrase in customer service these days. It’s referring to that moment when the customer makes a connection to you, your product, or your company and your relationship with them builds.

If a client’s problems are more important to the legal professional than the client, nothing beneficial will come from the relationship.

If a client’s problems are more important to the professional than the client, nothing beneficial will come from the relationship.

There is a vocabulary around customer service and it is the language of calming, the language of apology and the language of questioning and listening. You will seldom be able to fix a customer without using this language and if you choose a different language, you might be inflaming rather than resolving a situation.

Take responsibility for the delivery of your product and service and be the intermediary to ensure that you or your company holds up your end of the agreement to expectations.

Take responsibility for the delivery of your service and be the intermediary to ensure that you or your firm holds up your end of the agreement to expectations.

Companies often describe their connection with customers in terms of ‘what’s in it for me’: customer loyalty, customer engagement, sales results, growth potential, top-line outcomes. It’s what the Board of Directors wants to hear. It’s what the CFO wants to hear. I would challenge the wisdom of this and turn it on its’ ear.

Nothing lasts forever, right? While it may seem pessimistic, having a plan for dealing with a client’s departure is sound advice when it comes to maintaining business and clients.

What is polite and what is impolite these days? Does it depend on circumstances? Does it depend on who you're talking to? What is the standard for common courtesy these days?

You know good customer service when you experience it. It’s hard to explain at times when it’s not so great, but it’s easy to recognize when a customer service agent has gone above and beyond to make sure you’re satisfied.

The amount of work a customer exerts to obtain service directly affects revenue, market growth, brand loyalty and operational margins. If a customer has to go through too many steps they will abandon the effort and ultimately the company.

The larger a company's market share, the greater the risk it will take its customers for granted. When leadership begins confusing customer profitability with customer loyalty, they fail to realize that the most lucrative buyers may also be the least satisfied.

Customers are yours for your lifetime if you can adapt to taking the long view.

Customer care providers spend almost their entire day having conversations with external and internal customers. They’re communicators, pure and simple.

Have you ever been frustrated because doing business with a certain company was harder than you thought it should be? Have you thought about your own organization the same way? It may be difficult to do business with you, and you may not even realize it.

Often times professionals get consumed by the customer they want to have and forget about the ones they already have. Do you know what your clients really think of your services & products? What changes they’d like? And have you evaluated them?

Customer service is not something only done in a call center. Every front line employee that interacts with customers shapes the customer care experience.

Often times, legal professionals get consumed by the client they want to have and forget about the ones they already have. Do you know what your clients really think of your services? What changes they’d like? And have you evaluated them?

What do you look at as great customer service? Most likely it’s not something huge, but some set of little things. Or it may even be just one little thing. Why are those little things so important?

If your customer is on the street, you or someone else will sell him. If your customer is off the street, only you will sell him. Take your pick.

Over servicing customers can be as damaging to sales and profits as under servicing them. There is a huge difference between striving for a flawless level of customer care and the right level of customer care. And not just because striving for perfection can be infinitely expensive.

Finding out and using your customer’s preferred method of communication is huge. I’ve seen it make or break a relationship more times than I can count.

On a recent trip this summer, I engaged a tour guide on the wonderful customer service I had encountered in the area. What is it, I asked, that makes everyone so welcoming and attentive?

In regard to the world and relationships with others, change is the natural order of things. Day becomes night. Winter transitions to spring. Memory cards have replaced photographic film. Ipods have replaced CD players. E-books are now replacing paper books. Relationships we have with some people deepen and mature. . . others grow distant.

Recently I did some customer service training for a client. While we were talking about good service versus bad service, something happened that provided a great example of the impact bad service can cause.

You may be losing sales if there is any point in your sales or fulfillment funnel that’s a challenge for your prospects or clients. How can you make it easier for people to do business with you?

In many cases, frontline or customer service teams are the only contact point from your clients to your company. It is very important for your staff to develop and maintain a good relationship with your customers. So, how do we promote togetherness, and set our team up to deliver an excellent customer service experience?

A strategic advisor is viewed by clients as a true business partner. It is rare for clients to view you as a strategic advisor, but when that happens, you will probably have a client for life.

Frontline professionals that deal with a customer base on a daily basis play one of the most significant roles in any organizations.

Do the lines of communication get crossed between you and your customers? Or even your coworkers? Often when there is conflict, the origins can be found in a miscommunication.

When someone hands you a business card and says, "you should call this person", it's not really a referral. Without more information, it is more like they're sending you on a cold call. Cold calling is way down the list of favorite prospecting activities for most salespeople, and sometimes that frustration can spill over to referrals.

All salespeople with a small amount of experience have a 30-second commercial (a.k.a elevator pitch, popcorn introduction, etc.) down pat. And that's the problem.

I spend about 80% of my time working with sales professionals to perfect their ability to structure the questions that need to be asked. They all understand the importance of asking questions but need some assistance in creating their own tailored versions. Salesmen often enjoy the exercise of deciphering which questions uncover the compelling reasons the prospect should do business with them. 

You know good customer service when you experience it. It's hard to explain at times when it's not so great, but it's easy to recognize when a customer service agent has gone above and beyond to make sure you're satisfied. At some point, every day, everyone is a customer. A good customer service experience is something that everyone can relate to - so what is it that makes for an exquisite customer service touchpoint

There's something to be said about children who continue to ask "why" about everything. When they ask and you respond, and they ask "Why?" again, it means they don't have the complete answer to their question. They will continue to ask until they understand the entire concept or until the adult gets frustrated. In business, asking "Why?" five times can produce the same quality understanding to prepare for better results. Common complaints we hear often in business:

Nothing lasts forever, right? While it may seem pessimistic, having a plan for dealing with a client's departure is sound advice when it comes to maintaining business and clients. We spend so much time building solid, trusting relationships with clients that it can come as quite a blow when news hits that your client contact announces they're leaving their current position.

Like it or not, times have changed and the usefulness of a voicemail is up for debate. With email, text messages and Caller ID, some people find it irritating to see that they have a blinking red light or a notification alerting them to check their voicemail. And as sales professionals, the last thing we're trying to do is annoy a prospect or current client.

A mistake too many salespeople make is not keeping in touch with former clients. It's not uncommon for past clients to come to a point where they need your product or service again but don't remember how to get in touch with you. They are more likely to have your competitors' information handy. (Your competitors are still calling on your client even though you are not).

The good and bad of relationship-based sales. The Good Relationship-based sales methods are ideal. Most of the time those relationships are the only thing protecting you from competing solely on price. In sales training, we have a saying: "All things being equal, people buy from people they like. All things being unequal, people still buy from people they like."e

Attending a networking event? WHY?? That may seem like a strange question, but time is one of our most limited resources! Taking a few minutes to evaluate why you should attend THIS particular networking event may save you hours of unproductive time and energy.Often, sales professionals tell me that they make their decision to attend an event based on the location of the event and their calendar availability. Instead, base your decision to attend an event based on: Will your ideal target market likely be there? If not

Aberdeen's research shows that the best sales training companies, like Sandler Training, integrate sales training and customer relationship management.

A prospect has agreed to meet with you and indicated they are genuinely interested in your product or service. You arrive at the meeting and spend 40 minutes with the prospect sharing how your product can solve their problems, which they've just shared with you. They are very impressed with you and all the features and benefits that you've shared... They're happy with the delivery timelines, the after sales service that will be provided and once you send the proposal with the price they're sure they can get the rest of the committee to agree to move forward

I had an interesting conversation at a social event that made me recognize that I, along with people in general, seem to want to make decisions for other people. This is an interesting observation from a sales perspective and it's also applicable in our everyday lives. Let me share the story

Why do we think that by asking a question we'll hurt the prospect's feelings? What you need to remember is that that you are not responsible for how a prospect reacts to a question that you ask. Clients share with me daily the questions they've avoided asking for fear of upsetting the prospect. Sometimes they get frustrated with themselves because they feel they lost a sale or an opportunity of a sale because they lacked the guts to ask questions. They would rather bite their tongue than ask a question that they think might make the prospect uncomfortable

Spend some time in the psychology or self-help section in any bookstore and you'll find hundreds of books written on transforming troubled relationships. Whether husband/wife, parent/child, friend/friend or employer/employee, they dominate the shelves promising THE magical solution to resolving any issue imaginable. If you're in sales, what about the buyer/seller relationship? The same elements that make any relationship thrive also apply to developing and strengthening bonds with our prospects and customers

Sales isn't for the faint of heart. You don't just encounter negativity on a fairly frequent basis. In many cases, it is your job to sniff it out and address it immediately. Sandler Rule #3: "No Mutual Mystification," deals with an issue that often plagues sales professionals –  "happy ears."

You may not recall the first time you heard the word NO; however, that first time and the many times you heard it after all happened when you were a toddler. You continued to hear the word NO through your childhood years and eventually it became ingrained in your psyche.

Wednesday mornings are tough enough without our most annoying client calling in with the usual simple problem that he is over-reacting to. We sigh and answer the phone - all while making the facial gestures of a person eating oysters for the first time in their life. WHY does that client seem to be determined to drive you insane? It's your fault ... Every morning the manager from the operations department stops in to tell you how your team messed up his operations this weekend. She is soooo abrasive. You answer in abrupt sentences and quite rudely push her out the door

That's a headline straight out of sales training boot camp, but it's true. There is a question most people want answered when they go to a sales training program or read one of the many sales how-to books; that question sounds like this, "Is there really one secret weapon or magic formula to make me better and increase my sales?" Wouldn't it be wonderful to find one ... so would winning the lottery, but not many do it

Countless people go through sales training seminars every year only to emerge with slick tricks, a few doses of confidence and a belief that they'll be able to bully any prospect they meet into signing on the dotted line. While this may do just fine for the quick, lucky payday, it is not a system that builds long-term, profitable relationships.

No, we're not advocating neglect. Just understand that the salesperson should be looking for neither approval nor acceptance from his or her prospect. Learn how you can leave your emotions out of the equation.

I've spent a lot of time considering why the occupation of selling has been given such a low approval rating over the past 40 years. It wasn't always that way. Here's a story that got me thinking about this again. A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him

Recently I was working with a company's executive team in reviewing the progress we had made together in solving a longstanding, difficult problem that had stunted their growth for years and slowed their momentum. It was rewarding to see their excitement as we reviewed the results of our efforts together. It was a good team meeting and an encouraging feeling to share our successes. I should have left well enough alone, yet I recognized that the true learning and best growth had not gone far enough. I posed three follow-up questions:

I don't like emails! Thought I'd get that out on the front end so there's no mystery as to where I am heading. Now you're wondering what in the world has happened. What did he do wrong? What caused such a negative reaction to something as simple, routine and harmless as email

I have been doing a lot of traveling during the last two months. In spite of Chicago's brutal weather and some minor inconveniences, my flights and hotel reservations have gone remarkably smoothly and I have experienced a high level of customer service.

If your sales objective is to make the sale regardless, get the biggest order possible and structure the best deal for your company, then your entire focus is really on you.

The other day, people in the training center were discussing how they go about building trust. The group shared lots of ideas, and every idea they shared would probably do the trick. When all was said and done, we had a list of about twenty things people could do to build trust.

Today's business is focusing on something that champion athletes have always known: the right combination of training and coaching will help achieve greatness. It's not enough to have a superior product or service. You must have the skills to get that message across to your prospects. Training imparts the knowledge critical for success in today's competitive economy.

How would you answer this question: Why does someone or a firm engage you or decide to buy from you? Take a moment and write down the reasons you think people buy. From what I have seen in most professional schools, people compete to have the best grades, the most outstanding ideas and the most highly thought of papers. I have noticed that students who do well often get the most attention from teachers

As a salesperson, I seem to take quite a few lessons from movies and some of the best lessons are in some of the worst movies. Most people think Burt Reynolds played only tough guy roles and the occasional slapstick comedy role. But one of the best sales lessons I have ever learned was from the movie "The End." If you have not seen "The End," do not rush out to rent it. I am about to spoil the plot for you. This is kind of a cute movie starring Dom DeLuise and Burt Reynolds.

As a sales trainer with Sandler Training, I spend a lot of time talking to my clients and I get paid to work with them in four areas of their business: Strategy, Structure, Staff and Skills. Because I spend hours talking to them, I learn quite a bit. And despite that fact, they still manage to surprise me with the questions they ask me.

Twenty years ago, when I was a young salesperson just starting out, I was fortunate enough to get sent to quite a bit of sales training. All of the training programs seemed to center around the "Three Big Steps to Selling." The "Three Big Steps to Selling" are: 1) Prospecting 2) Presenting 3) Closin

Imagine walking into a prospect's office and having him or her say, "I have a problem. There is a monkey on my back and I want to make it yours." Any normal person would know better than to say, "Great, toss that over here and let me add that to the monkeys I am already working with." As a sales coach, I spend time with quite a few people who have big monkey collections. They have accepted that their prospects and clients' problems are actually theirs. Unfortunately, these monkey collections have some predictable consequences

Recently, I found myself absorbed with the notion of influence. I wondered aloud who the great influencers of our time are, then wondered further how each had reached their influential positions. A voice in the room, that of a top trusted advisor, shot back, "The number-one salesman in the world is a kid who wants ice cream!" We laughed.. Yet buried in that answer was delicious truth.

Whoever said talk is cheap didn't know much about sales. Talk-too much talk, that is-can cost a lot. This is a difficult lesson for many sales professionals to learn, and that's understandable. People in sales tend to have outgoing personalities. They enjoy good conversation, and the longer they are in sales, the better they get at making small talk, establishing an emotional connection with the prospect, and driving a conversation toward the specific end of closing a sale

I don't know about you, but I have never liked being told what to do. I don't think I've ever met anybody who did respond well to that kind of instruction, even when the person in charge-a coach at sports, for example-clearly knew what he was doing if the message is delivered wrong. It doesn't matter if what you are saying is true, if it's not delivered properly. You can be the authority, but no one cares if you can't deliver your message in a way that others can accept. The fact that you have good prudent knowledge, the fact that you're correct, doesn't matter if not delivered properly.

It's March Madness time, which I enjoy, but not always for the same reasons my friends do. Because I'm in sales, it's fun just to watch the teams execute their strategies and then try to figure out how these strategies apply to my own profession. And what stands out, season after season, is how predictable the plays have become and how easily they can be countered

If you're like most sales professionals, you work hard to learn as much as you can about your product or service. You take pride in how much you know about your business. When you can answer any technical question that might come up in a call with a prospect, you feel confident. That's only natural. But as important as it is to be knowledgeable, your eagerness to display that knowledge can damage a relationship and cost you sales. To avoid this problem, you need to remember that expertise can be intimidating. It can turn people off

Hidden in the uproar over Mark McGwire's admission that he used steroids was a lesson for sales professionals. You might remember the moment, which has been replayed over and over: When McGwire hit his record-breaking homerun, Sammy Sosa-one of the Cardinal slugger's opponents-raced in from the outfield to hug him. It "looked great on TV," one of Sosa's Cubs teammates said recently, but the other Chicago players "didn't appreciate it." Sosa forgot an important rule of sports, of sales and of business generally: Your meter's always running.