Are you listening?

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not being heard? It happened to me last week in a meeting with a potential supplier. I was discussing my needs but only being heard on a very superficial level, if at all. As a result what I was being offered was not what I needed and at times I felt talked down to. The problem was that my contact was not really listening.

Last night Ruth Whiteley was fired from The Apprentice largely because she talked too much. She didn’t sell because she was too busy talking and didn’t give her prospects chance to think or act. There’s a pattern here. The sad thing is that Ruth Whiteley is a sales trainer and my conversation was with a coach. Both should know that listening effectively is the most vital skill.

Listening is a vital component of selling

We learn when we listen

These days we’re all too busy trying to get our message out there. All too often we’re broadcasting rather than communicating. Be different. Stop and listen. Listen to the words as well as the music. Listen to what is being said, what is being withheld and what the speaker can’t find the words for. Ask questions to help the speaker to communicate with clarity, use encouraging body language and above all stop talking!

Effective listening leads to understanding, helps us to spot opportunities and creates empathy. Next time you’re having a conversation or in a meeting just be mindful of how much information you are really taking in. Are you fully engaged in listening or too busy thinking what to have for dinner, how to respond or making a judgment? I could go on but I want to hear what you think. Do you ever find yourself speaking because silence is uncomfortable? Have you been frustrated at not being heard?


Nothing beats a demonstration

How do you persuade prospects that yours is the right solution for their problem?The best way is to demonstrate how your offer meets their needs.

Now that we have tablets, laptops and the internet at our disposal it’s easier than ever for all businesses to demonstrate their product or service. However for a demonstration to be convincing it must be well prepared. Scrabbling around folders on your computer or on the Internet to find examples when you are in front of the prospect won’t impress. Taking along samples without the means for people to try them won’t convince. Stumbling over your demonstration will just make your product look difficult to use.

I recently signed up for a new web-based service and joined a tutorial session to learn how to use it. The tutorial was so under prepared and made the system look so difficult that I’m considering asking for my money back. I have 30 days in which to change my mind so I can wait a few days and see if the next session is any better. Many people wouldn’t take the time. The discussion forums are full of people talking about asking for their money back.

Preparing your demonstration

  • It might look like she's drinking champagne but this is actually an accountant demonstrating how to manage money!

    It might look like she’s drinking champagne but this is actually an accountant demonstrating how to manage money!

    Find out as much as you can about the prospect and their needs in advance so you can personalise your demonstration.

  • If appropriate check how much time your prospect is prepared to give you and make sure you allow time for pleasantries and questions as well as your demo.
  • If you are going to give samples how will you serve them? How can you ensure they are in optimum condition when you share them? Will your prospect need to clean up after sampling e.g. if you are selling make-up, toiletries or food? Will you need a mirror so prospects can see how something looks?
  • If you want to show examples of your work consider putting them in to a presentation package such as PowerPoint so that they are well organised and follow a logical sequence. Alternatively collect suitable examples into a folder or a package like Evernote so that you can easily find what you are looking for.
  • Rehearse your demonstration. You want to make your product or service look easy to use. Very few people like reading pages of instructions.
  • Think what kind of questions or objections your prospect might have and prepare your answers. That might mean showing another example or letting your prospect try out your product or service.
  • The best demonstrations are followed by an opportunity for the prospect to try for themselves so will you need any additional or safety equipment?
  • Double check that you have everything you need (checklists help), that equipment is charged and that you have leads, spare batteries etc.

Have you experienced any good or bad demonstrations? Have you made any mistakes or had any great successes? Why not share them here so we can all learn from your experience?

Glenda Shawley of The Training Pack helps small businesses to grow by finding ways to sell more to new and existing customers. To find out how we can help you email

A tale of cold calling

This post was going to be about a really bad example of a telephone sales call but then the phone rang again and it became a story of two totally different approaches to cold calling.

How not to make a cold call

The first call came in the early evening on Wednesday; after a busy day I was struggling to get in to my WordPress account to post Thursdays blog. I was not a happy bunny. I picked up the phone, expecting it to be one of the family telling me when they would be home for a meal, to be greeted with ‘Can I speak to the IT director please?’ The caller then introduced himself and his firm in a very fast and thick foreign accent which I couldn’t understand. His next question was, ‘How are you today?’ He was unprepared for my ‘not good’ response and couldn’t understand my explanation as to why I wasn’t good. He gave up and asked if I used a Mac or a PC.

I wanted to know why he asked and he said it was because he had a special offer from Microsoft to improve my business. Now I’ve never been Microsoft’s biggest fan and they are not my ‘go to’ port of call for the changes I want to make to improve my business. I said I wasn’t interested at which point the salesman really went on to the attack! ‘You need this to improve your business. You are a training company and you need it for your database and presentations etc.’. Mmm, have you never heard of ‘death by PowerPoint’ Mr. Salesman?

Where did he go wrong?

Consider the long term value rather than immediate returns.

You will already have spotted plenty of mistakes but I will highlight just a few:

  • The salesman went straight for the sell without establishing any rapport
  • He didn’t ask questions to establish why I might need or want his product
  • He didn’t listen to what I was saying and didn’t adapt his pitch to my responses
  • He was unprepared for my objections and thought the only objection I would have would be to parting with money over the phone!
  • He was very pushy and argumentative, certainly not the way to sell to a woman or indeed anybody.

I got very firm (some might say rude) and hung up on him!

And here’s how it should be done

On Thursday morning I’d just settled down at my desk to do a full day on some data analysis and marketing planning for a client. The phone rang, a very pleasant female voice said, ‘Please forgive the interruption but I’m…..   and I wondered if you would be interested in what I do which can help you to…..  Do you have time to talk?’ I didn’t but we had a short conversation in which we established some common interests and agreed to speak in two or three weeks time. What a difference!

What did she do right?

  • She showed respect for my time and asked for permission to continue
  • She introduced herself clearly with her own and her business name
  • She explained what she did and what could be in it for me in two sentences and asked if I might be interested.
  • She concentrated on establishing rapport and interest
  • She took no for an answer but offered a reasonable alternative
  • She offered to follow up with an email which she did within the hour

I’ve had a look at her website and her offer is interesting although I don’t think I want to make the sort of long term commitment she seems to be offering. However I’m still happy to have a conversation with her and to see if there is anyway I can help her in her objective of doing more business in the London area.

In conclusion…

Cold calling isn’t easy but it can be very effective if you do it right. In the UK it is important to check that the person you are calling hasn’t registered with the telephone preference service (tps) before making a call. To increase your chance of a successful outcome:

  • Prepare what you want to say
  • Think how will you introduce yourself?
  • Plan how will you explain the purpose of your call and why the caller might be interested? Try to do this in one or two sentences.
  • Ask the recipient if it’s OK to talk now
  • As with any sales situation ask questions to establish your targets needs and wants and listen carefully to their response
  • Keep your conversation as brief as possible, remember you have interrupted your target’s schedule
  • Can you send some information or a sample to reassure your target?
  • Think what guarantees can you give for the target to trust you?
  • Remember your chances of an immediate sale aren’t high unless the person you are calling has a need or desire for your product or service at the time you call, so how will you cope with their objections?
  • Think what you could do to maintain a dialogue if the target isn’t interested in purchasing today
  • Above all keep your call brief and courteous and focus on building the relationship  which could lead to a sale in the future

Glenda Shawley of The Training Pack helps small businesses to grow by finding ways to sell more to new and existing customers. To find out how we can help you email

Another case study in email marketing.

What makes you open an email? It’s either because it is from someone you like to hear from or it’s because the subject line interests you, right? So this morning I opened an email with a subject line that interested me, ‘Incredible half price offers on office essentials’ I expected to see some great half price deals, this is what I saw first


No mention of half price deals, just freebies and binders which appear not to be at half price and are quite expensive. If the giveaways are the most important hook to get me to buy then surely they should be in the subject line. I’m not interested in remote control cars or pasta sets I’m interested in essential supplies for my office.

They did eventually get to the half price deals at the bottom of the page ‘below the fold’ on my computer screen, here’s what was on offer


Lessons for the small business owner

  • Decide what your target market will be interested in?
  • Write a headline that will appeal to their interests.
  • Develop that interest with relevant product or service information in the first paragraph.
  • Make the value obvious
  • If you think that a freebie or a special offer will be more likely to make people buy put it after the information about the product or service that captured their interest.
  • If it’s a time limited deal tell people they need to hurry e.g. ‘offer closes in 3 days’ ‘buy now whilst stocks last’. Make this bold. In this email the time limit is in the legal mumbo jumbo at the bottom of the page!
  • Make it obvious what action you want people to take.
  • Make only one offer per email or people will be confused.

Do you want to do better than this?

If you want an email marketing campaign that works talk to us. Our last campaign had a 64.1% open rate, a click through rate of 16.6% and was making sales within the hour. Call Glenda on +44 20 8991 2767 (8.00a.m to 8.00p.m. GMT please) or email

A case study in email marketing.

An email with this subject line ‘Attend a consultation with us at Connected Business Expo and get a voucher of up to £50!’ has just landed in my inbox. It’s fighting for my attention with the other 1200+ messages in there so it needs to stand out as being relevant to me, so how did it do?

OK it got my attention with the offer of a £50 voucher and this bright image that jumped off the page at me

BT email marketing campaign

What’s in it for me?

and then what? Nothing! If I hadn’t been a keen student of marketing it would have been in the trash folder in one click. So what’s wrong with this email campaign?

Attention is only the first step, I need to be interested.

The first rule of marketing is that our communication has to grab attention amongst the’noise’ we are bombarded with every day. This email sort of does that but it could be so much better.

It’s often said that we have less than six seconds to grab attention. I don’t know about you but I don’t give every email that lands in my inbox even as much as six seconds unless it grabs my interest. So if the subject line in this email had given me more information about what the ‘up to £50 voucher’ would buy me it would have had the potential to get my attention and interest.

Of course I might not have been interested in the offer but that’s OK because I’m then disqualifying myself from the target market. A well written subject line allows readers to identify whether or not they are interested and therefore whether or not they are our target. Too many people think their mailings have to appeal to everybody. No they do not. They only have to appeal to those who are genuine prospects for the product or service on offer.

Speak to me!

The second rule of marketing is that our message should be about our prospect and not about us. We need to answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question as quickly as possible or at least lead people to believe that if they read on we’ll tell them. This message fails miserably.

The headline tries, ‘Get yourself connected…’ but it leads nowhere. I am connected. I have family, friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers etc. I have a land line, a mobile, two computers, a tablet and am on Twitter, Facebook, email and the web every waking hour. I am connected so what are you offering me that I don’t already have?

Sell me the benefits

This message doesn’t give me a single reason for attending this event. It wastes space on telling me the name of the event twice and more space on its former name. The remaining space is wasted on self indulgence ‘The UK’s premier collaborations technology event’. What on earth does that mean? What can I expect to see at the event? Who would benefit from attending? What can they hope to get out of investing the time to attend? What’s in it for me?

Believe it or not this email comes from BT Business, a company in the communications field and one that should know better.

Do you want to do better than this?

If you want an email marketing campaign that works talk to us. Our last campaign had a 64.1% open rate, a click through rate of 16.6% and was making sales within the hour. Call Glenda on +44 20 8991 2767 (8.00a.m to 8.00p.m. GMT please) or email

What possible objections could your prospect have?

We can all think of reasons not to do something or reasons not to buy and if we can’t think of them ourselves someone else will point them out to us. That can mean we miss out on something that could improve our lives or our businesses. As business owners we need to make sure that our prospects don’t miss out and the way we do this is to anticipate objections and deal with them. This means starting with our marketing communications.

What reasons might your prospect have for dismissing your offer?

‘Who needs a diet coach, after all you just need to eat smaller portions and exercise more.

Would you have the will power to resist if you didn't have an appointment with your diet coach's scales?

Would you have the will power to resist if you didn’t have an appointment with your diet coach’s scales?

‘I’m not going to buy that lovely patchwork quilt because I could make it myself.’

‘I don’t need a business adviser because I understand what it takes to run a a successful business.’

These are typical of the types of conversations that our prospects are having either in their own heads or with their nearest and dearest. They are all good reasons why the prospect won’t buy but are they justified? Possibly not but unless we challenge them our prospects will not buy. We need to start by identifying the reasons our prospects will give themselves, or be given by others, for why they won’t buy. Make a list. Listen to the doubts people raise when you are talking to them. Do some research. Think about how you behave when you are considering a purchase.

Work out some counters to those objections

So the voice inside your head (or your husband) is saying, ‘You don’t need another pair of shoes,’ That might be true but you want them and so you are marshalling your arguments for having them. You’re good at this so you will find a convincing reason for why you have to buy them. That is what you need to do for your prospects. Help them to justify why buying is a good idea.

So take each of the objections you identified and prepare your ‘counter’ or, better still, a range of counters. Write these down and keep them somewhere safe.

Deal with the objections before your prospect raises them

Your prospect may be put off before you ever get to know about them. They may read your marketing material with interest but then start the internal dialogue that will stop them buying. They may think about buying but be dissuaded by a friend or family member. To try to stop this happening be upfront about possible objections in your marketing materials and then counter them.

‘I know you don’t really need another pair of shoes but because these use the latest technology I guarantee that these will be the most comfortable high fashion shoes you’ve ever worn.’

‘I recognise that you could lose weight by eating less and exercising more but how long have you been saying that you’re going to do just that? I promise to help you plan a menu that will allow you to lose weight healthily and without starving and I’ll be there to keep you motivated when that will power fails you.’

You get the idea but if you need any help just get in touch. I still have a couple of free one hour sessions available in January. Book your slot here. Book now because in February I’ll be reverting to 30 minute sessions. There’s no hidden hard sell, I just want you to do better business and to tell other people how great I am!

Another video goes viral.

I want to buy this product! You don’t really want me to explain why so I’ll let the video do the talking. So far it’s had over 22 million views!

Why does this video work?

Like so many videos that go viral there’s a good dollop of humour in this one. This is not a topic of conversation that well dressed posh ladies would normally talk about so the slight incongruity gets our attention.

This is a problem that many of us can relate to so we are interested in a solution. By the time we have listened to all the different scenarios in which we might need the solution we really want the product. Just in case we are in any doubt they then explain how it works so we are convinced. Then we’re given the website address so we can go and buy it.

The video is constructed in a way that works:

  • A smart lady sitting on a toilet gets our attention
  • The problem is explained in a way we can all relate to
  • The problem is elaborated so that we really want to find a solution
  • An explanation of how the product works creates conviction
  • We’re then led to the website so we can take the required action (i.e. buy it).

So here we have a great template for a video that works now the only thing we have to do is to find an original take on a story for our products or services and then we too can have a video that goes viral. Maybe! Why not share yours here?