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.

6 Quick Tips On How Sales People Can Gain The Competitive Edge

Many salespeople have left their personal and career development up to their company, and that’s not a good thing.

Your company and boss are up to their ears in working on the urgent stuff, the everyday minutia that keeps the business going.

Rarely do they devote much attention to the future-focussed big picture that includes your specific development opportunities.

Discussions about your career and job progress often are raised at appraisals and performance discussions, but rarely in everyday chat.

This means that most of your personal development is left on the back burner, so to speak, and if you allow that to continue, you can see many years go by without contemplating the best use of your time to create your future.

So, how can you put your learning and development in prime focus and allow yourself the chance to progress even when the company isn’t devoting 100% attention to your advancement?

What should you be concentrating on in order for you to keep moving forward in your career?

Here are some pointers:

Strengthen your strategy and negotiating skills

You not only need to keep up to date with sales skills and how they have changed over the years, but there are two areas that are really important to keep up-to-date with.

These two components will always be in fashion, and you need to work on your strategic thinking skills as well as your negotiating skills in order to keep ahead of the game.

Deepen you product, service and pricing knowledge

It’s really important that you understand what your product does to help customers improve their offerings in the market place.

Falling behind in your knowledge of pricing will only cause embarrassing situations in future meetings and discussions with clients.

Build business acumen

You need to know how your customers’ businesses work, what keeps them competitive and how they need to be structured in the future to make them successful.

If you’re unfamiliar with the basics of how a business works (cash flow, balance sheets, profit and loss, strategic marketing, etc) then you’ll be left behind when your prospects ask for business advice

Being social media savvy

Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and will develop as the key communication media for future buyers.

You need to become savvy at the way buyers and their businesses use social media, because without it, you will sound archaic and prospects will be put off.

Expand competitive knowledge

Through self-research and observation, you can become acquainted with what your competition is doing and how they are doing it.

It keeps you one step ahead in the race for customers’ business and stops you looking foolish when prospects say they are contemplating using someone else’s products.

By being up-to-speed with what’s going on in your market, you ensure you are competent when discussing ideas with your prospects.

Support your career development

No-one knows your career aspirations better than you, so don’t leave it to your company to decide what courses you are going on or what e-learning programmes might be available to you.

Decide on your future advancements within your own company or elsewhere and start looking at what your industry is offering you for your next move.

If you decide to stay and grow with your current company, find out what skills are necessary for you to be seen as potentially advancement material.

Think about what you can do to attract interest in you from people that matter within your company.

That way, you become a person who adds value at every step as you progress.

Each of these will help you learn and develop exponentially instead of waiting to see what might come up in your company.

Don’t leave your development up to others; take charge of it yourself and you’ll see how you can consistently control your learning and progress for your own career.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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Use These 6 Opening Statements To Make Your Sales Interactions More Effective

Last time, we discussed how your ‘elevator speech’ could be full of mistakes and not do what it’s supposed to do, i.e. open your conversation effectively with a prospect.

We covered six of those mistakes and why they shouldn’t be used early on in your discussions.

Here, we cover how the elevator speech should actually be the foundation for a great discussion.

This is naturally just an example, so take the principles and apply them to your own individual circumstances:

“Hi, Mr Prospect, it’s a real pleasure to meet you/talk to you”

This is called a softener, and it eases you and the prospect into the next part of the conversation.

“I’m Fred Smith with ABC Widgets. Our company works with businesses like yours in the xxx industry”

Here, you’re simply stating facts that cannot be disputed, and makes it immediately applicable to the prospect because you’re talking about their industry.

“I’m here because we are introducing a new concept within the industry and the CEO of XYZ International has been trying it out for a couple of moths now.

He’s seen a 15% drop in his overheads using this new concept and he’s agreed that I can present some of his overall results to other companies so they can see if similar or better results can be obtained”

This is talking the language of the prospect, because they are primarily concerned with the results of their business, rather than in buying a product or service.

“I’d be delighted to discuss with you what this new concept can do for your business,”

A short trial close at this point determines the interest of the prospect, and if you have done your homework previously, you will know what drives their business decisions and what challenges they are going through at the moment.

“OK, if it’s not convenient now, let me send some details through to your email and show you how we have helped others to increase productivity/decrease overheads/improve profits (whichever is right for this prospect) in their businesses”.

This is your secondary objective, as the prospect isn’t ready yet to accept your primary objective.

“Let me just confirm the details….”

This makes sure you have got everything right and you can ensure the prospect feels good about their decision.

Did you notice the six points that the salesperson made?

  • The softener. This takes the edge of the introduction and eases you into the remainder of the opening.
  • You state facts that cannot be disputed, not claims that need to be backed up.
  • You talk the language of the prospect – their needs, their business’s needs, what’s important to them. The product or service isn’t important at this point. Not yet, anyway.
  • Short trial close. This might seem strange in the opening, but it allows you to gauge the interest of the prospect at this point.
  • Aim for a secondary objective if the first objective (appointment with the decision-maker, demo of the product, further discussions, etc.) isn’t achieved
  • Confirmation of everything discussed, or next steps if they don’t want to go any further.

These points allow you and the prospect to work together to achieve a mutually-agreeable next step after your opening.

If you’ve touched the right pain points, there’s a good chance of moving forward in the conversation and starting to get solid answers from the prospect to the questions you have lined up.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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6 Components That Add Up To A Sale (And How To Utilise Them…)

We often get asked for the Holy Grail of selling, that one thing that would increase sales exponentially.

Without being patronising, we say there really isn’t just one-size- fits-all when it comes to sales.

But there are a series of components that, when applied together, help you achieve the sale more often than not.

To check if there is a chance for further engagement with a potential buyer, you can use objective criteria for assessing the sales opportunity.

These criteria can be measured, either in a monetary way or alternative options to check their viability.

Take a look at these six components and see how they fit in with your industry.


  • Are you aware of the people within the company who are in charge of making decisions?
  • Do you know the level of their influence and authority?
  • Are you able to gain an appointment with them?
  • Do you know what solutions they are currently using?


  • Do you know what buyer pains they are suffering?
  • What critical business issues are they going through at present?
  • What potential missed opportunities are they experiencing that you could help with?


  • What’s the company vision and how does this relate to your product?
  • What unique differentials can you offer that relate to the vision?
  • How does their vision help them to achieve increased market share?


  • What quantifiable value can you offer to overcome their current challenges?
  • How can you raise the value of the solution you can offer to the buyer?
  • How can you get the buyer to buy-in to the value?


  • How can we collaborate with their business to help them improve their current status?
  • What other firms are collaborating with them and how can we enhance their results without taking their business away from them?
  • Can we reduce buyer’s risk in the ideas we have in mind?

Reason to Act:

  • Is there something urgent the buyer has to achieve that your product or service can help them with?
  • What would be the negative consequences of not making a decision?
  • Are there other time factors that would influence the company decision-making process?

If the criteria used here are important to the company or the buyer, then the chances of making a positive decision in our favour are raised considerably.

Remember, the higher the number of positive criteria noted above, the better the chances of you achieving a favourable outcome.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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The 6 Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make In Their Opening Discussions

You’ll have heard of the ‘elevator speech’, that first few seconds’ introduction that can make or break a conversation you have with a prospective client.

It’s called the elevator speech because it normally takes the same amount of time you’re in an elevator to make a first impression and make someone think it’s worth having a conversation with you.

What do you say when you first meet a prospect and start the discussion?

Do you open with small talk?

Do you pile in with who you are and heat you’re there for?

Or do you try something else?

I’ve listened to many openings that salespeople have made in meetings and it’s obvious when someone has not planned for the meeting effectively enough to make that first impression.

Here’s an example of a poor elevator speech and my reasons why they are poor:

“Hello, Mr Prospect. How are you today?”

This is known as a filler, and tells the prospect that you are there to sell something.

Although the question in itself isn’t wrong, it’s become known as a stock opener and everyone knows you’re not really interested in the other person’s health.

“I’m Fred Smith and I work for ABC Widgets”

What’s wrong with this, I hear you ask?

Well, it actually demeans the salesperson, and turns them into a salesperson immediately.

“Have you heard of ABC Widgets?”

O, come on. This demeans the listener and makes them a) look a fool if they haven’t b) look as if they’re wasting their time answering the question if they have.

“We are the leading provider of widgets in this area” 

Sorry, but being the leader in anything doesn’t mean the prospect should buy from you.

The prospect doesn’t know how their business will benefit, so it’s a boast that average salespeople use to cover up their poor salesmanship.

“Our business is transformational resourcing”

Using buzzwords makes you look silly.

Especially if those buzzwords have to be explained to anybody who has an ounce of intelligence.

“Do you have time now for me to buy you a Starbucks?”

This is a poor example of a “forced close”.

The prospect immediately feels under pressure and also feels obligated to give something back to you for being bought some coffee.

Did you notice the six mistakes made in this short communication?

  • Opening filler. This is small talk that proves to the prospect that you are going to sell something.
  • Demeaning the salesperson. Strange as it seems, when you say you ‘work for’ someone, it lowers your positioning in the prospect’s eyes.
  • Demeaning the listener. Asking a question that is demeaning is undignified and downgrading. Leave out the obvious questions altogether.
  • If you boast about how good your company is in the opening discussion, you run the risk of being shot down
  • Using buzzwords. If the prospect doesn’t understand you, they’ll look foolish if they have to ask you to explain, and you’ll look foolish assuming they already understand.
  • Forced close. This is deliberately putting the person under pressure and may immediately be putting them on the back foot.

These are just a few examples of mistakes that can be made in the elevator speech.

The next blog post will show you what a great elevator speech would look like.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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How This Small Change Of Mindset Will Smash Your Sales Targets

I was talking to a sales manager recently, who was concerned about one of his salespeople.

This person was suffering from a negative mind-set, where if he didn’t sell or at least get the appointments he wanted, he felt very demoralised and actually called himself a failure.

This happens regularly, where a person’s self-esteem and self-worth are linked to their results.

If they succeed in getting the results they want, then they consider themselves to be a success; if the opposite happens, then they label themselves as a failure.

There is seldom a middle-ground. You either win or lose, succeed or fail.

What could I say to this person’s sales manager?

Well, he was always trying to encourage his salesman, offering ideas on improvements and trying to convince them the results they are getting will get better soon.

Our mind-set is one of the biggest drivers of our results.

If it’s going well for us, we tend to become more positive and this leads to more opportunities being seen as time goes by.

If it doesn’t, then negative vibes could be present, having an obvious effect on our actions and, hence, our results.

Being a ‘failure’ is a label we place upon a situation where we would have wanted a different result. It’s a judgement on a result we have achieved, and it causes a change in our emotions.

By concentrating on failure, it makes us feel we can’t progress.

What can we do in these situations?

Well, it may seem simplistic, but it actually works.

Instead of applying the label ‘failure’ to these situations, apply the label ‘outcome’.

By seeing the result as an ‘outcome’, we change the mind-set away from what was a failure to now it being a result.

That result wasn’t what we wanted.

So, we ask the question, ‘What can we learn from this?

What has to happen in the future to prevent this from happening again?

What changes do we have to make so we get different results next time?’

Now, these questions change our mind-set away from what was wrong to what can we do to make it right?

Remember, we can’t change the past mistakes but we can do something to stop it from happening in the future.

I said to the sales manager to discuss with his salesperson how he could review the results and see them as outcomes.

This mind-set changes the attitude, because it stops the thought process of ‘what’s wrong with this?’ and changes it to ‘what can I do with this to make it right?’

Try it yourself; stop thinking of non-successful results to be failures, and turn them into outcomes.

That should help you see situations in a different light.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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Use This Example To Get Prospects To Return Your Voicemails

I had a voice-message left on my phone last week from a sales call. There were basically two things wrong with it.

The first was the caller didn’t say who he was or the name of the company. I had no idea who it was.

It was just an introduction to his product.

Secondly, he garbled his telephone number in such a way that it was obvious I was simply one of very many calls he was making and he just wanted to get them out of the way.

I couldn’t actually make out the phone number, so there was no chance he was going to get a call back from me.

What should he have done?

Here are some of my tips for an excellent voicemail.

Firstly, have a purpose for each call.

By that, I mean know what you are trying to achieve and make each one personal.

If it sounds like this is one of many calls you’re making, the receiver won’t feel it’s a call just for them, but they are one of many.

Then, give your name and company and purpose of the call.

Don’t try any tricks; customers are busy, and they don’t want their time wasted by people who are trying to trick them into making decisions they don’t want to.

Most importantly, give the prospect a reason to either call you back or to take advantage of your offer on the phone.

The reason you give should be a call to action for the receiver.

You might be sharing some knowledge with them, giving them some sort of insight, sharing some information, offering some special pricing, talking about a solution to a problem.

Whatever it is, you need it be creating a motivating force for them to call back.

Also, you need to repeat the key information, like your name and phone number so the person has the ability to call you when it’s possible to do so.

Think of the reason why you are making the call in the first place. What’s your primary objective?

To arrange a meeting?

Give the receiver a reason for agreeing to a meeting?

Is it to introduce a product?

Ensure they have a reason to visit your website to see it.

Your voicemail could sound something like this:

‘Hi, John, this is Tom from ABC Ltd on xxx-xxx-xx. You recently downloaded some information from our website on business processing. I have more really valuable information and would be delighted to send it on to you. Let’s discuss the best way of improving your business. My number again is xxx-xxx-xx and it’s Tom from ABC Ltd. Looking forward to hearing from you, John.’

This can be pre-scripted, if you like, but again you must make it personal and make it sound like they will benefit from talking to you.

Plan your voicemails effectively and you have a greater chance of getting them returned.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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Use These 2 Techniques To Guarantee Appointments With The Prospect

You will have known for some time that the ideas of selling have changed over the years, so that the emphasis is now less on the process of sales and more on the processes the buyer goes though in making the purchase.

Much has been written about the mind-set of the buyer and how they make decisions.

Our job in sales is to make it easy for that decision to be made and to fit into the flow that makes selling easy.

One of the ways you can do this is when you are making the appointment with a prospect.

This is a strange phenomenon but links up with the way the human mind works.

When you make an appointment with a prospect, what time do you usually suggest?

If you’re like most salespeople, it’s normally on-the-hour; ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, etc.

This immediately makes the prospect think that the appointment will last for an hour, as our mind-set for appointments tends to fall into hour-long blocks.

There are two things you can do to break the pattern of the prospect’s thinking.

Firstly, don’t make an appointment with them – instead, organise a meeting.

You make an appointment with a doctor or a dentist. It gives the impression that it’s a painful experience!

Secondly, offer the meeting start time at an unusual time, like a quarter past the hour or a quarter to the hour.

This strange time choice makes the prospect think there is something different about this meeting.

They don’t immediately think it’s going to take 60 minutes of their time, and it stands out in their diary or calendar, too.

Trying something different when making an arrangement for a meeting will make the prospect feel there is a good reason for seeing you.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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10 Quick Tips On Gaining The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Sales is one of the most fluid of industries, mainly because of the massive amount of changes that it has been involved in over the years.

The only consistent factor that has existed has been change.

Thinking about what has to happen for a sales consultant to be successful, one thing that naturally comes up is their ability to achieve, maintain and retain a highly competitive advantage.

What is it that contributes to this success?

Many salespeople we have asked tend to fall back on their products or services for that competitive advantage.

They often think that if their company could just produce the next ‘big thing’ in their industry, the competition will melt away and they just need to decide which island they will buy with their commission.

Most buyers, though, will inform you that competitive advantage seldom revolves around facts or figures or services or even products.

What buyers want from their suppliers is a consistency of help in making their business more successful.

So what do we think will make the difference today and tomorrow in giving you the edge in the success stakes?

We believe it’s your ability to become extremely valuable to your market place and customers through what you learn.

In other words, you will become very valuable to future prospects based on what you know that they don’t know.

If you were to have the best knowledge about how businesses should be set up to use your product effectively, customers will see that they can trust you to help them achieve more than they are achieving at the moment.

Imagine approaching a prospect who is struggling in their industry against bigger or more productive or more profitable competitors.

Unless you have the holy grail for their business and they immediately win the jackpot, what can you suggest this company does to turn round their fortunes and make inroads in their market?

That’s the million-dollar question, the answer to which will increase your value a hundred-fold to them.

Your knowledge and expertise is what is priceless to a company like that.

Who is paid most money these days (outside of the overpaid prima-donnas in the premier league!)?

Yes, it’s those people who have the knowledge and ability to add value to a company’s strategic fortunes.

Where do they get their knowledge from?

Mainly through targeted research in areas that most important to the future operations of business that matter to them.

What can you learn from this?

Well, in order to get a distinct competitive advantage, you must become an avid learner of new ideas, concepts and trends.

There are plenty of ways to do this.

Identify people who are in-the-know about current trends and subscribe to their websites, blogs and LinkedIn articles 

Create files in which you can save articles, information, knowledge and writings that offer insights into what’s happening now and in the future. 

Get to know the meanings behind these ideas for your industry. Ask yourself, “If this came true, what implications does it have for the future of my clients and prospects?” 

Decide on the short-term measurements you can use to assess success in your market. What could you do to improve those short-term results? 

Design and create articles and blogs that build your knowledge awareness in your market place. 

Start sending information you have accrued to your prospects you would love to have business from. 

Start contributing information to specific LinkedIn Groups so you build a quick reputation for yourself with people who matter to you. 

Develop strategies to contact companies and share your knowledge with the key personnel, without trying to sell a thing. 

Become the person of choice when these prospects are starting to look for solutions. 

Show your expertise at speaking events, Rotaries, Lions Clubs, seminars and the like, where people go to listen to experts.

Your knowledge and expertise will prove to be a massive asset to you and your company over the next few years.

Start planning now to see how you can add value to every company you work with.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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Can You Sell Your Product Without A USP? Here’s How…

In days gone by, many companies used to rely on their USPs to carry them through.

They touted their Unique Selling Points as their main competitive advantage and they proved to be very effective when prospects were searching for answers to their problems.

As time has passed, however, the unique offerings companies had have been copied and surpassed by other companies, leaving those previous USPs in tatters.

In fact, many companies consider their USPs to still be unique to them, but they are sadly mistaken.

A group of salespeople on one of our sales programmes were asked about their USPs recently.

They quoted ‘Quality, Value and Back-Up Services’ as their main selling points.

We took a couple of their products and did a fairly quick analysis of their competitors’ products through websites, LinkedIn and Facebook.

As you may probably guess, their competition also pushed those three similar components as their USPs.

The sales guys we were working with were unaware of the USPs their competition were pushing.

It makes sense, though, that these generic offerings were to be matched or bettered by the competition.

They soon saw that what they thought were unique offerings were far from it.

In fact, one competitor’s products outlasted and outperformed the products of the sales team we were working with in every facet we measured.

So, they asked, if we’re not unique, how can we sell our products? 

Fair question, and we set about answering it.

The truth is, if your products are not unique (and there aren’t that many around these days) then what have you got to beat the competition with?

Well, the fact is that companies these days are looking for a lot more than products when they buy from you.

They are more interested in how you can change their business for the better.

So, slowly, suppliers are recognising that USPs rarely exist anymore.

This revolution has changed suppliers’ perceptions from offering USPs to DSPs. 

A DSP is a company’s differentiation from the other suppliers and market providers.

If there’s little or nothing that you can offer that’s unique, what can you do that differentiates you from competitors?

This now is the key question.

Rather than think about uniqueness, which will probably be copied or bettered soon anyway, what can your company offer that will make more of a difference to your prospects than simply a better product?

This is what differentiates you.

This is what sets you apart from others.

You need to have that differentiator that proves to be a game-changer for your prospects, customers and clients.

It could be the extra productivity your product provides.

It could be the extra profit it generates.

Maybe it makes the end-users’ lives easier.

Perhaps it provides opportunities that other companies don’t.

You no longer have to be unique in the market place.

But you do have to offer something that makes you different in the short and long-term.

That way, your customer can see the differential in dealing with you, rather than going for a cheaper product.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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Here’s Why Customer Satisfaction Is WORTHLESS

I’ve just finished reading Jeff Gitomer’s book “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless” and I’d really recommend you get a copy if you’re in customer service.

It offers some interesting insights into service and some great stories that resonate in many areas.

It got me thinking as to why I’m loyal to some companies and not to others.

Have you ever visited somewhere for service (a restaurant, for example) and been ‘satisfied’ with the whole experience, but never returned?

Companies we work with measure ‘customer satisfaction’ and think that means they understand the voice of the customer.

The trouble with CSI and CSPs and the like is they never tell you what the customer needs to experience for them to become loyal to you.

You may wonder what makes customers loyal to your business?

It doesn’t take much to find out – you simply go and ask them!

We have many companies who have renewed their business with us over many years.

When we ask them why they keep coming back, the answers are many and varied, but basically they come down to three key components:

  • We are consistent with the level of quality and performance 
  • We are pro-active and follow up on our promises
  • We are easy to work with 

There are obviously many other components that cause them to be loyal, but those are the major ones that keep cropping up.

What this means is that we can work on these for our existing customers and start conversations with new customers to discuss how we could maintain their loyalty over the years to come.

We’re not the cheapest consulting and training company around, but our loyal customers know they get more than they pay for, so money is seldom an issue.

What’s most important is that we help their businesses to be better than they would be without us.

So, don’t settle for customer satisfaction.

It may be good for one-off transactions, but if you want and require loyalty for your business to thrive, try finding out what makes your customers want to come back to you and build on that for a solid future.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto)

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