All posts by Sean McPheat

Hi! I'm the founder and Managing Director of MTD Sales Training - we offer sales training solutions for companies both large and small. I'm blessed to work with 25 of the most talented trainers in the UK....well, I did recruit them! ;-) Today, we've delivered training in over 23 countries to over 3,500 different organisations and 100,000 staff. Our clients include Xerox, Friends Provident, Starbucks, Taylor Wimpey, CISCO, Allianz and Lloyds TSB to name but a few.

5 Factors That Prevent You From Being A Sales ‘Nearly Man’

One of my friends likes a flutter now and again.

Oh, he’s not a bona-fide better, just someone who now and again enjoys taking the risk of seeing if his horse can beat the others.

There’s one big problem.

He always bets on the horse to place.

When you place a bet on a horse to win, your bet pays only if your horse finishes in first place.

When you place a bet on a horse to place, your horse needs to come in first, second or third place for you to win.

The pay-out for placing is lower than the pay-out to win.

So, he reduces his risk by always looking for his horse to place.

Even if it wins, he will win less than if he had bet on it to win.

His risk-aversion means he might as well back an also-ran, that is, a horse that never wins but nearly gets there.

In sales, there are key factors that separate the winners from these also-rans.

The Rain Group recently conducted a study where they found out what most sales winners do that also-rans (the guys who don’t win) don’t do.

The list is really interesting.

Here are the top five components or factors that made the difference:

  • The salesperson educates the prospect with new ideas or perspectives
  • The salesperson collaborates with the customer and their business
  • The salesperson convinces the customer they will get desired results with their solutions
  • The salesperson listens to the customer
  • The salesperson understood the real needs of the customer

Nothing ground breaking there, but it’s always interesting to see how great salespeople do these things consistently and with vigour.

The also-rans may well do some or even all of these, but it seems to be hap-hazard, without a pattern and certainly not strategically thought-through.

What was also interesting from the study was that these components didn’t figure in the top five for the also-rans.

In fact, in the study, these top five took the following places in the list of factors for the also-rans:

Educating the customer (1st) came 42nd in the also-ran’s list.

Collaborating (2nd) came 26th in the also-ran’s list

Convincing (3rd) came 41st in the also-ran’s list

Listening to the customer (4th) came 19th in the also ran’s list

Understanding the real needs (5th) came 27th in the also-ran’s list

So the message that came through clearly from the survey was that the most important areas to the successful salespeople barely registered a flicker in the also-ran’s list.

This is serious stuff, as those top five factors for the winners all focussed on the prospect’s business and gaining results for them, whereas these came so low on the list of the also-ran’s priorities that it’s obvious they will never be seen as anything but also-rans in their clients’ eyes.

It’s important, therefore, that if you want to consider yourself a winner, you need to identify what makes customer want to do business with you, and most often it has nothing to do with your products or services.

It has everything to do with what changes and improvements you can bring to the prospect’s business.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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How To Show The Prospect The Future’s Brighter With You

Sigmund Freud had a way with words.

One of his theories was that pain can be more immediate than pleasure, leading us to become more concerned with avoidance of pain and hence paying more attention to it.

Many salespeople have heard this reckoning and have identified how recognising a client’s ‘pains’ and ‘problems’ can have a big effect on the decision-making process.

But the main caveat here is that many clients don’t realise they actually have a problem.

‘Find-out-what’s-wrong-and-fix-it’ salespeople are sometimes at a loss in this situation.

They are so used to talking to people who are in ‘pain’ (loss of profit, lower productivity, lack of results, increasing costs, high levels of change, etc.) that when a prospect says that they don’t perceive anything bad enough to make a decision to change, they don’t have many other options to offer them.

So what’s the option?

Well, try moving away from the pains (the negatives) and start highlighting the gains (the positives).

This requires you to start creating opportunity-thinking in the buyers’ minds, focussing on aspirations and possibilities that might not have considered before.

This involves a shift in focus by salespeople from highlighting what is wrong with situation to what could be right with future change.

What this means is the customer now is not concentrating on what is wrong (and conceivably there might not be anything worth changing for) but on what possibilities there may be with your products and services for their future.

It would sound something like this, if one of our business development guys was talking to a prospect:

“You’ll recall, Mr Prospect, that we discussed the idea of coaching your senior salespeople in advanced communications techniques. I know your team have attended many courses on this subject, and have seen improvements as a result. What I’d like to show you is how the return on your future investment will mean greater profitability for you and job satisfaction for your senior people too.”

Notice here that the emphasis is on the future benefits, not the current or past pains.

In many cases the prospect doesn’t see the need for change.

At that point, you need to shift the focus away from what is not happening to what could happen in the future.

If there’s nothing wrong at the moment, no convincing arguments on your part are going to change that perception.

Instead, change the modus operandi.

Start focusing on what benefits the future changes will bring, so it becomes so compelling to the prospect that they are drawn in that direction, thinking about the returns they will achieve, the increased production or the higher profits.

That way, you take them out of the comfort zone of current thinking and show them the opportunities of future ideas.

Try it, and see if the results you get are measurably better.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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How Sales People Get Beyond First Base…

Many sales people ask us for that ‘one thing’, the idea that will solve all their problems and enable them to hit their goals every time.

The ‘magic pill’ if you like, that will make them their sales managers’ dream machine.

Sorry, but there isn’t just one thing that will make you successful.

But if there is one bit of advice that I can give you that will take your success further, it is this:

‘Do things that unsuccessful salespeople don’t’

Gee, thanks, that’s really helpful!

Well, let me go one step further.

If you do what most salespeople do, you’ll just get to first base.

By this, I mean you understand buyers’ needs and you build solutions for them.

You may even listen to their needs and be on their wavelength.

You might connect with them and build some kind of relationship with them.

That, as I say, only gets you to first base.

It’s what most salespeople do these days. It isn’t enough.

To get to second and third base you need to do more.

Here’s what the great salespeople do that the average don’t:

  • They concentrate on the results they will help their prospects achieve
  • They inspire confidence by building trust
  • They reduce risk in using their solutions
  • They are proactive and take the initiative rather than wait for the prospect to ask for help
  • They are experts in the fields that are important to their prospects
  • They educate them with new ideas that add value to the relationship
  • They become an essential resource to their prospects and customers
  • They share the ownership of progressing the sale with the prospect

Do you notice what each one of these ideas entails?

Yes, it takes effort, guile and willingness to go further than others would go.

And that’s sometimes the challenge; many salespeople don’t want to do the hard work that makes selling easy.

Selling isn’t hard, unless you’re one of the unsuccessful ones.

Salespeople who complain about their lot should take a long, hard look at the bullets above, identify where they need to improve and work to make it happen.

Remember: the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary!

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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How To Respond To “Why Should I Buy From You?”

Look up the word ‘commodity’ and you’ll find definitions like “a basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type” or “a type of widely-available product that is not markedly dissimilar from one unit to another.”

Another definition may be, “a product that is the same as other products of the same type from other producers”.

The common thread here is the similarity of each product classed as a commodity.

In fact, the biggest differential often comes down to price.

If the buyer cannot differentiate between your products and a competitors’ then oftentimes price will be the determining factor for the sale.

What do you say, then, when a potential buyer says, “why should I buy from you?”

Do you fall into the trap of stating features and benefits?

Do you start to rattle off what your product will do over the product they are currently using?

The big danger with this is that it turns what you have into a commodity, something that will be compared with your competitors’ products and services.

You need to take the buyer’s mind away from the products you are offering.

Your answer to the question of why should I buy from you should be along the lines of “We can solve the issues you currently have better or differently than our competitors.

But until I know what those issues are, I can’t tell you why you should buy from us.

Is it OK if we go through some ways we can help you and see if there’s a compelling reason for us to work together?”

What you’re doing here is moving the buyer’s mind away from thinking of your products and services, and thinking about you helping him to solve his current problems and creating a better future.

As long as the focus is on products, the buyer will be in comparison mode and will look to see what is better or worse about your solution.

The way to decommoditise your products and services is to identify the prospect’s biggest pains – and then show how you can solve it better than anyone else can.

Remember we said that commodities can usually be differentiated by price?

This journey takes the emphasis away from things that can be compared, and onto the results the buyer will get if they choose your offering.

Think about how you can de-commoditise your products.

What aspects of what you sell could be taken out of the realm of being compared on price?

What have you got that can add value to the buyer’s business or change their lives in a different way to your competitors’?

By doing this kind of thinking, you move away from the world of comparative pricing and move toward the solution-discovery that will mean a whole lot more to the businesses you are dealing with.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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Talking Less + Listening More = Increase In Sales…Here’s Why

Years ago I heard a piece of advice that is now committed the dustbin of time, and quite rightly too.

Have you ever heard someone say ‘Oh, he has the gift of the gab; he should be in sales”?

Ever heard that?

Well, it may have been true in the days of snake-oil salespeople, where suckers queued up to buy from guys who could manipulate their way into anyone’s wallet simply by blinding them with science or speaking so much it overwhelmed the prospect into saying ‘yes’ even though they hadn’t got a clue what they were buying!

But today’s world won’t stand for the over-the-top, over-enthusiastic stand-and-deliver artiste who is totally full of himself.

As the saying goes, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and people think you’re a fool, than open it and remove all doubt”.

Ever thought how long you should be talking in a meeting and how long the prospect should be talking?

There’s no hard and fast rule, but general consensus has it that the prospect should be talking about 75% of the time.

What are the reasons for this? Here’s three:

If you’re talking, you’re not learning about their problems and opportunities

No-one ever learns anything while they are talking, so offer the chance for the prospect to tell you their problems.

Build on those problems so he sees the need to do something about them, and quickly.

Unless the prospect is verbalising and revealing the problem, it isn’t a problem. Or at least, not to him.

When the prospect is talking, they often reveal incremental information on top of the basics

Remember, the quality of the questions we ask will determine the quality of the answers we receive.

The better the questions, the deeper the information you’ll receive.

The more information you receive, the better-equipped you will be to uncover the real needs and see what you can do for their future.

Some salespeople have said that their prospects get defensive if a whole load of questions get sent their way

My answer to that is ‘prospects would rather talk about their business problems and opportunities than listen to your features and benefits’.

Their business is their favourite subject, so encourage them to open up and talk about it.

You will learn an awful lot more that way about what really matters to them than if you concentrate on presenting your products.

By listening more, you uncover a lot of information that will prove beneficial when your turn comes around to discuss solutions.

Stop thinking that the more you talk, the more your prospects will be impressed by your smartness.

Actually, the opposite is true.

They get fed up with smart-alecs. What they want is someone who can prove they have listened effectively and solve the issues that they are facing at the moment.

Learn to listen more and talk less. Not only will you sell more; you’ll learn more too.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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The 5 Stages Of The Buyer’s Decision Making Process & How To Utilise It

How do you make a decision?

Ever thought about it?

Many of us have, and have used the facts behind decision-making in identifying how they should work with clients.

But many more haven’t studied this subject and consequently lose the ability to influence buyers in making decisions that will progress a sale and take the prospect on a journey of discovery.

Actually, most people make decisions at a deep psychological level without really identifying how the process is taking shape.

We all go through a process of making decisions without realising it, most of the time.

Just think about when you decide what to have at a restaurant, or what car you want to buy, or where you want to go on holiday.

You may think that many of your decisions are instinctive, but actually you are always going through a process, even subconsciously.

If you’re able to see what these stages are in the process, it will help you help the buyer to come to a natural conclusion, and it will answer many questions you may have as to why someone hasn’t made the decision to go with your product.

Let’s take a look at the stages and see how we can deal with them when discussing progress with a prospect:

Stage 1: Unawareness

At this point, the prospect isn’t aware of what options or choices they have. In a restaurant, they haven’t seen the menu yet.

In a sales situation, they have little idea of what your products can do for them.

If they look on-line, they are unaware of you until your marketing prowess opens their eyes.

The next stage is the obvious one:

Stage 2: Awareness

They may look on-line and checkout your website.

They may read your brochure or literature and see what it is you do.

They may get a phone call from your company.

Whatever way it happens, they now go through a series of connections that makes them aware of your product or service.

This awareness is simply that; aware of what or who you are. That has narrowed it down dramatically.

Think of the billions of people who don’t know about you (unless you work for Google or Facebook or Amazon, that is!).

This awareness is the next stage of decision-making.

Stage 3: Understanding

This starts to play at the intellectual level. In other words, they have a logical understanding of what you have to offer.

It could be anything from seeing the choice on the menu to knowing the range of offers you have to checking out the hotel amenities.

This understanding level narrows down the process, as it allows buyers to see for themselves what their business or lives would be like with your product or service.

Stage 4: Conviction

Now, emotion starts to play a role. It may look like you are very competitive price-wise, but that doesn’t convince people you are right for them.

At this point, they must be out of their comfort zone.

They must either associate pain with their current position so they need something or someone to solve their problem, or they see opportunities for the future that you are able to help them achieve.

Your solution has to be worth investing in, to solve their problems or take them on the journey to improved results.

When they see this happening, they have an emotional connection to the results and are convinced your solution will be the change they are looking for.

Stage 5: Action

If the first four steps are carried out effectively, this stage is the next logical step.

You as the sales consultant now can eleviate the fear of making this decision to take action.

If this is the area where most of your sales stall (lack of closing ability, etc), it’s probably because you haven’t built a solid foundation with the previous stages.

If everything has been done satisfactorily beforehand, the decision on behalf of the buyer to take action comes naturally.

The real danger here is in trying to make the buyer jump too quickly through the decision-making hoops.

Many salespeople will try to jump from understanding to action to quickly.

They forget that the buyer has to connect with the solution first.

Without doing that, you run the risk of creating fear in the buyer’s mind because you haven’t followed their natural pathway of making decisions.

So, try to identify where you are with each buyer on their decision-making cycle.

Be aware of the progress you need to make with each individual and, if you solidify each stage before moving on, you have a much better chance of linking in with the way they make their decisions.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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6 Questions That Will Enhance Your Client Relationships

Many salespeople we talk to are happy to discuss their sales techniques and what they do right with their clients.

The topics often drift onto which customers they love dealing with and which they would sell to the devil himself if they could.

Oftentimes, we take these really great customers for granted.

By that I mean we continue getting great results with them but we expect that anyway, and we often forget to treat them as clients who we respect, admire, appreciate and rely on.

Whichever way you categorise ‘great’, you can sue this close relationship to build permanent partnerships, and it allows you to ask them questions that would seem impertinent or simply too brash with lesser customers.

Think of the relationship you have with your great customers as allowing you to get closer to them and get ‘under the skin’ so you can find out exactly what can and should be done to develop that partnership even more.

Here are some examples of questions to keep that closeness:

“What do you think our competition are doing better than we are?”

This question would be risky if it were to be asked of a new customer, but because the relationship is close with a great customer, it allows you to delve deeper into what the thoughts are of your buyer and what could be better, without risking the future business.

“If I knew something you were doing as a business was not getting the best results, would you like me to tell you?”

This question proves you have a consultative mind-set rather than one that is always looking for the sales opportunity.

It proves you have their business in mind and helps you and they retain that good partnership.

“What improvements would you like us to make in our products or services that I could take back to the office/factory/designers? I can’t promise anything, but it would be nice to know”.

This again is risky because they may talk about improvements you can’t deliver.

But when you get the responses, it will help you look at developing your own product awareness and keep your ear to the ground for new ideas.

You are the eyes of the company in the field and, sometimes, honest customer feedback can help you develop tweaks that would make even more businesses be interested in your products.

End-user feedback should be treated like gold-dust, and your great customers can be a mine of information here.

“Who do you know who would also benefit from these products or services?”

These great customers could be an excellent source of referrals for you because they’ve used your products, seen the results, adapted to the changes you have instigated and tasted the benefits to their business.

What a great opportunity to help others experience what they have achieved!

“Can I get a quick testimonial on video from you for our website?”

You can’t ask this from ordinary customers as you haven’t proved your worth.

But a great customer’s testimonial would be very valuable for the front page of your website. Imagine half-a-dozen quick-fire testimonials from customers who are advocates of your business!

People believe peers much more than they do salespeople, so it offers a good opportunity to share their opinions.

“How can we help you be more productive/profitable/safe/reliable in the future?”

With a great customer, you’re offering to work even closer with them to improve their sales opportunities and build their business in the future.

Because you and they have been working together for a while, you will get more specific and fruitful answers, based on what they know you can do for them, as opposed to simply asking you to reduce your prices!

These few questions can help you improve your relationship with great customers and help them help you to develop your business in the future.

I hope they prove useful for you to gain even better results with them, for yours and their businesses.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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3 Ways On Gaining More Info Without Asking A Single Question

No doubt you have been on those sales courses that discuss asking questions to get information from prospects and customers.

You may even have a suite of quality questions in your armoury that you roll out whenever you need to dig deeper and analyse the situation more closely.

Often, though, the discussion can sound more like an interrogation.

A few open questions here, a few probes there, a rhetorical question or two, a couple of closed questions….it can very quickly sound like you’re just peppering the prospect with probes and perceived pressure.

Can you get the prospect to open up without it appearing to be an interrogation where you are simply asking question after question?

Here are three things you can do to take the pressure off during a qualifying session:

Reflect Back

Here you simply restate the objection or comment back to the prospect.

This shows you have been listening and are politely asking for more confirmation, clarity or detail.

So, if the prospect says “Your price is too high?”, many salespeople would ask what price would be acceptable, or for more details behind the comment.

Instead, simple respond by reflecting back what they have said.

They say “The price is too high!” You respond, “The price is too high?” with an inquisitive look.

This reflection encourages the prospect to give more details, embellish their remark and confirm the meaning behind the comment.


This is one of my favourites.

Depending on the tone, this can be said in a questioning way (with a slight inflection, meaning ‘please go on’), in a confirmation way (meaning you’ve really heard what they are saying), or in an emotionally-confirming way (meaning you empathise with the prospect’s words and feelings).

You need to use this sparingly and in a non-patronising way, conveying genuine interest in what the buyer is feeling and saying.

“Tell me more…”

Put simply, this is a request for more information and expansion on a point without being specific with a series of why, what, when or who questions.

The prospect can elaborate in whatever way they see necessary and it helps you see how the thought processes of the prospect are developing.

These three ways of encouraging progress in a conversation without being tied down by a specific questioning technique should enable you to find information in an exchange that adds no pressure to the situation.

Try one or more of these ideas out and see what responses you get.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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Use This Simple Call To Action To Shake Up Stale Deals

Many times you will send a message to prospects and they will be deleted or thrown in the bin before being opened.

They are simply not interested in being sold something via email or through marketing blurb.

Others may open your message and read it before again throwing it away or deleting it.

One technique that seems to work more often than not is so simple that it is often overlooked by marketers and salespeople alike.

I’m sure you’ve received many sales letters yourself and quickly scanned it to see if it has any relevance to you at all.

Now, what if the message had a PS at the end?

Did that grab your attention? I bet it did!

A PS (Latin for Post Script) is a final sentence or two, originally viewed up as an after-thought, something that was omitted from the original letter.

These days, it can be used as an urgent addendum or special offer.

This grabs their attention and creates interest.

An example of a PS could be a special offer, or the number one benefit they will achieve with your product or service. Imagine that the PS is the first thing they read in the communication. What would that over-riding, hard-hitting message be?

You could also include the date that the special offer will finish, or even the free bonuses they would achieve by ordering soon.

Think of that PS as being a call-to-action, something that raises the stakes or makes them think they have to take action NOW to get whatever it is you are promoting.

If the message is a simple confirmation of an order, your PS could simply be a reiterance of your thanks for their business.

Start using a PS in your sales communications and you’ll see how it changes the way it looks and, more importantly, how much of the message is actually read.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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How To Differentiate Between An Objection & An Excuse

Many salespeople face a dilemma when they experience an objection from a customer or prospect.

Lots of buyers have objections fitted into their wiring systems, so they are programmed not to go overboard with their enthusiasm for your product.

They think that an objection such as price or delivery will get you to reduce the price or change delivery terms.

It’s unusual to get no ‘objections’ during your consultation with a prospect, but one thing you definitely have to uncover is whether it’s a valid objection or just an excuse to stall or get you to change something that will be to their benefit and mean you lose out on something.

One way to ascertain if the objection is genuine is to ask a hypothetical question.

This would sound like: “Suppose we were to change the delivery quotas and extend the credit terms by 30 days. Would that mean you would be happy enough to say yes to this proposal?”

Now, one of two things will happen here.

Either they will say ‘Yes, that would do it, and we could sign on those terms”, or they will stall and come up with another excuse.

Remember, the question is hypothetical, meaning that you haven’t said you would definitely move on these items, but you have at least confirmed that the queries are genuine and that moving on them would result in an order.

If you find these are real objections you can overcome, you can then say that you will check with production on the schedules and talk to finance about extending credit terms.

But at least you have the confirmation that if these two things changed, you would get the order.

If they are simple excuses, then you will have to dig deeper and find out why they are trying to stall.

The main thing here is to find out how close you are to achieving progress.

Imagine agreeing to their demands and then finding out there are many more ‘excuses’ for not progressing!

Although it’s never easy to let go of potential business, on some occasions, if you’re sure you are being given the runaround, it may be better to spend your time with prospects who  aren’t wasting your time.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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