amy-hardinAcSELLerate is a unique firm that provides comprehensive support for building rockstar sales organizations. There are two things an organization must master to achieve superior sales performance: the right people and the right selling system. Subscribe

AcSELLerate takes a holistic approach to sales and revenue challenges. Our goal for each client is long term, sustainable, measurable growth. Training and management competencies alone won’t deliver superior results if you don’t have the right talent in place. Conversely, unharnessed, maverick talent can be toxic to a sales organization as well. AcSELLerate delivers the right people with the right strategy and training to be truly great.

Here are the challenges that keep our clients up at night:
• Is our team really capable of delivering the results we demand?
• When hiring, how do we spot the performers from the presenters?
• I need help but nobody can sell like I can.
• Why aren’t we getting enough new opportunities through the door?

If you are asking any of the above questions, perhaps we should talk. Contact me to schedule a free, no expectation meeting to explore how we might be able to transform your sales program into a revenue producing machine.

There are three dimensions to getting a good answer to a question:


Unfortunately many sales professionals ask a question and accept the first answer at face value.  This is because their typical personality style is characterized by high optimism and trust.  Additionally if the information plays into the solution the sales person wants to propose, it’s easy for the sales person to get excited, assume the prospect is fully qualified and rush into a presentation of his product or service.

Lawyers on the other hand are often characterized by detail orientation and a good dose of skepticism.  Experience has taught them that the first answer they receive is  only part of the story. (Trust me, I’m married to a lawyer and he never fully believes the first story he hears.)  Judges (and parents) know this also.  That’s why our courts instruct people to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Without asking a question 3 different ways, there is a good chance important information will be omitted and the salesperson can make assumptions which jeopardize a sale. Here are prospect statements or questions that could easily have 3 or 4 different meanings:

  • “This looks good, we should be able to get something done.” (Vaguely positive, should (??) be able to get something done?)
  • “We are always looking for new technology solutions.” (Always looking– is that good or bad?)
  • “Do you have a guarantee?” (Have they had a bad experience in the past?)
  • “I don’t have a very big budget” (Is the prospect broke or playing a price pressure game? Maybe he wants a cheap quote to beat up the incumbent.)
  • “What makes you better than your competition?” (DANGER—don’t take the bait!)
  • “Tell me what you’ve got.” (This one is usually delivered by a highly dominant executive who is in a hurry.  What does he really want?)
  • “I’m the decision maker.” (We’ve all learned about this one the hard way!)

My advice to sales people is simple: Ask questions like a lawyer. Ask the question 3 different ways so that you fully understand what the prospect is sharing with you or what the prospect is asking.  The art, of course, is to redirect a prospect and uncover additional information without making him feel like he got the third degree!

AcSELLerator for the week:   Assumption is the enemy of the salesperson. Seek the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

This will definitely make you laugh!  Last week I trained a class on how to create Cold Emails That Get Results.  It reminded me of the email below which is the perfect example of what NOT to do. This is an actual email that was received by one of my clients. The italicized smart alec comments were created by my good friend and marketing genius, Pete Monfre, and have been added for your reading pleasure!  The names have been changed to protect the sales-challenged.

Remember “Marketing Brochure Speak” doesn’t sell! Neither does “me” centered selling.  Be sure to count how many times the author uses I, Me or Our. Use this at your own risk!  Enjoy!

“Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you regarding Common Sense Research Services.”

  • I haven’t given him the opportunity – I’ve never spoke to him or heard of him. Nice trick though.

“I’m happy to introduce myself as the Regional Director of Business Development for your area.”

  • Good for you. I’m glad you are happy. Do you want a cookie?

“I have been serving the market research industry for over a decade and am well acquainted with our services and how they might align with your particular service needs.”

  • I’m glad he’s well acquainted with his own services. How could he know what my “particular service needs” are?

“Please review the attached marketing information and be sure to contact me if you have any questions. I will follow up this email with a phone call within the coming weeks to explore in detail how Common Sense Research Services can be positioned as a research partner.”

  • Oh, boy! I can’t wait to read about why you think you are great.

“I look forward to serving you with enthusiasm and passion, making our commitment of gold standard service a top priority.”

  • Is he hitting on me?

“Thank you very much.”

  • Don’t mention it.

Warmest regards,

Dave (Aren’t you Glad this Isn’t You?) NoSale
Director, Business Development
Common Sense Research Services

The ART of business relationships is Authenticity, Relevance and Trust.™
Although most sales programs focus on building trust effectively (and they should), seldom is Relevance discussed or recognized. Here’s the question: If your prospect/customer trusts you, but you don’t regularly demonstrate your relevance, are you truly a Partner-Advisor to your client?

Relevance is critical. Today, buyers are too busy to take a meeting or have another conversation that doesn’t add value to their day. Value is delivered by addressing an issue that is at the top of their priority list or by asking questions that help your prospects/customers evaluate their business in a new strategic or tactical manner. Irrelevant sales people rely on the “buddy” approach, but are not truly engaging with their prospects/customers as a Partner-Advisor. Often, I encounter sales people who believe it is their company’s responsibility to create programs or pay to make them relevant. I couldn’t disagree more! Although it is ideal when a company does invest in its people, in the end it is the sales professional’s responsibility to make himself relevant. This self-responsibility is what separates the sales person from the sales professional (and often the unemployed from the employed)!

• Do I know my prospect’s industry?
• Am I an expert in my field?
• Am I better than my competition at anticipating and solving problems my prospect/customer encounters?
• Do I attend workshops/seminars that make me more valuable to my prospect/customer?
• Do I commit time quarterly to reading relevant business books/materials?
• Do I master a new business skill quarterly?
• Do I have a mentor or mentor others?
• Do I write articles, blogs or white papers that address priority topics for my prospect/customer?
• Do I actively bring new relationships/best practices/tools to help my customer/prospect?
• Is my good work recognized?

If you scored well on the first 9 questions, the last question may be the most important. If you feel a twinge of self-promotional conscience telling you that recognition isn’t important, you have business opportunities running through your fingers! If you believe word-of-mouth is enough, you will lose business to less-capable competitors. Resolve today to put a plan in place to let prospects know you exist!
Are YOU relevant?

That is the question I am asked by business owners who are planning their sales and marketing campaigns. The first question I would ask is, “How do you plan to use it?” Here are the answers I receive:
• “As part of a direct mail campaign.”
• “In the sales call to help explain our capabilities.”
• “As a leave-behind item to remind prospects of our capabilities.”

Let’s take a look at each option:

If it will be used in a direct mail campaign, how much is the investment and what percentage of your prospects will actually read or keep your brochure? My experience is that only 8% of the population reads these items and even less keep them. That assumes, of course, that the brochure lands on the desk of your intended prospect. Direct mail response rates are between 1% and 3%, so is the investment worth it? If the campaign is followed up with a structured Prospect Pursuit Plan which includes phone calls, emails, invitations, give-aways, etcetera, it could be a good first step. If it provides the courage for a salesperson to make a follow-up call (AKA: Linus’s Blanket for Sales) that’s not a bad objective either. However, pinning revenue goals and expending a significant amount of a marketing budget on a beautiful one-time-touch brochure will not give most companies the results they are hoping for.

The second option, which is to use the brochure as part of the sales call has problems associated with it.
• If it is used in the beginning of the sales call, it automatically puts the sales person into the “presentation mode”. It disengages your customer almost immediately and focuses on “the pitch”. You might as well wear your “I’m a SALES Machine” t-shirt into the appointment. The prospect figures out quickly that you aren’t there to really understand his problem and trust is broken.
• If the brochure is brought out in the middle of the call, it shifts the sales person into talking about features, benefits, solutions and pricing too soon. Most importantly, it does not position you as a partner/advisor to your prospect because relevant questions and high-level problem solving are not the focus of the meeting. (By the way, if you use a corporate flipchart/binder to sell, you have the same problems.—Not to mention that you are now selling with the same level of sophistication as college kids who sell steak knives to their parent’s friends!)

The third option, is to use the brochure as a leave-behind.
• This has some value if your company employs physical walk-ins as part of its prospecting plan. If it is VERY well-produced it can add to the credibility of your company. However, it will never make the sale for you or be a factor in the decision to buy from you. If it’s poorly produced, don’t bother.
• If it’s used at the end of a sales appointment, to remind the prospect of your capabilities, you probably executed a poor call, and the brochure will hit the round file! If the prospect is qualified, an excellent sales professional should walk out of the meeting with a signed contract or a clear next step and another appointment. Unfortunately, many calls end with the BROCHURE BRUSH-OFF. The BROCHURE BRUSH-OFF goes like this:
SP: “Here’s some information on our product/service. It explains some more details about us. Do you have any questions?
P: “Not right now. I’ll get back with you when we are ready to make a change.”
SP: “Is it ok if I check back with you in a week?”
P: “Sure, thanks for coming in.”

Congratulations! The BROCHURE BRUSH-OFF was executed perfectly by the Prospect.–And the Salesperson let it happen!Who’s in control or your sales process?

I don’t know about you, but if a kid shows up at my house and just stands there, they don’t get any candy. Every kid who comes to my house has to say “Trick or Treat” before they get their chance at the goodies!

AcSELLerate Sales Tip: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Sales people who are timid or slow about closing, don’t walk away with the goodies!

Who do you reward with extra candy? The kid who worked hard on his costume, donned a wig and even put on make-up or the kid who showed up wearing a black trash bag carrying an empty pillow case?

AcSELLerate Sales Tip: Sales people who go to the extra effort of preparing for the sales call (researching the company and/or the industry, setting an agenda and preparing some relevant questions) are always rewarded over their competitors who decide to “wing it”. Don’t show up for your sales call with an empty pillow case!

Ok, this one is easy. Every kid knows that the houses with the lights off and no decorations are Halloween Scrooges. No candy there, move on. Chances are 100% better at the cool houses with jack-o-lanterns, lights, and freaky music. Things get even better if the owner answers the door in a costume!

AcSELLerate Sales Tip: Why is it so easy for kids to quickly identify their “Ideal Client” and yet so hard for sales professionals to figure it out? How often do we find ourselves knocking on the door of someone who will never be qualified to be our client? If you haven’t spent the time or the money to identify your “Target Market”, no wonder you aren’t getting very much candy! Quit knocking on the wrong doors and move on! Call on some prospects who will show up in their costume (their “I need what you sell” costume) and start enjoying the sweet life.

Every kid past the toddler stage has figured this one out. Word spreads quickly about the houses with the good candy. You’ve got to get there early if you want the best stuff.

AcSELLerate Sales Tip: If you snooze you lose. Selling requires that you are well-connected in your industry and can quickly identify an excellent prospect. There is more competition than ever before, and those who aren’t up for a serious pursuit of the prospect should just stay home.


We’ve all seen this guy—eighteen, obnoxious and completely out of touch with the realities of his situation. He may try to fake you out with a cute cowboy costume, but we all know he isn’t the real deal.

AcSELLerate Sales Tip:
If you haven’t updated your sales approach or tactics in the last 10 years, you may be dating yourself. Worse, you are probably losing business. The time-worn techniques of bonding by asking personal questions and presenting features and benefits are out of touch with today’s businesses. Businesses today value high-level problem solving and The New ABCS of Selling: Authentic Business Conversations ™.

What happens when a squirrel runs into the middle of the street and can’t decide whether to turn right or left?  You guessed it!  Such is life for indecisive squirrels.  It’s the same for indecisive sales professionals.

Decisiveness, according to Webster’s, is the power or quality of deciding. This is such an enormous quality for top revenue producers, that the lack of decisiveness alone can be the factor in deciding against a candidate for a position or for deciding not to engage a candidate or company in coaching and training.  Why?  Look back at the definition, and the word “quality”.

The quality of a person’s decision making is crucial to success in sales.  The lack of strong decision making for the salesperson comes from:

  • Fear of being wrong
  • Over-analysis (aka Analysis Paralysis)
  • Fear of upsetting the status quo
  • Fear of change
  • Poor self image
  • Belief that others know more than we do

This results in:

  • Poor negotiation skills
  • Poor conflict resolution
  • Little to no ability to implement changes
  • Difficulty adapting to new situations
  • Inability to move a prospect through their own decision about whether or not to buy from usSubscribe.

Let’s focus on the last issue.  Great salespeople don’t just  have the ability to make their own decisions well.  They also know how to help the prospect make a good decision.  This goes far beyond a few standard sales questions such as “Who is the decision maker?” and “How does your company make decisions like this?”  It means a sales person has the strength to move a prospect (who may have a flawed decision making process) to a conclusion in a timely manner.  Any of us who have sold for any length of time knows the old adage “Time Kills Deals”.  This is 100% true.

When a salesperson has under-developed, very protracted decision making, he/she will let the prospect get away with murder.  Murder of a sales process is accomplished with the following weapons:

  • “I need to do more research, and I will let you know”
  • “I need to run this by a few people.  Why don’t you call me next week?”
  • “I know you’ve redone the proposal once already, but could you re-do it again and change ___________?”
  • “I need more time.”
  • “What happens if_______________?”
  • “I’ve got to check with my wife, husband, lawyer, banker, accountant, podiatrist, family dog, grandma, etc …………..”.  (You get the idea!)
  • “Let me think it over.”  (This is the big gun.)

Ah yes, the BIG gun! — Perfectly vague, innocuous and 100% effective against sales people with Poor Decision Making.  Why do these excuses and stalls work so well?  Because, for sales people afflicted with PDM, they all make sense!  It’s because this is EXACTLY what they do with small and large decisions in their own lives.  It is therefore IMPOSSIBLE for sufferers of PDM to hold prospects accountable to timely decisions.

And since we’ve already established that time kills deals, timing is everything! In the end, a lack of a decision is a decision. — Ask any flat-headed squirrel!