Never Wing It with Voicemail

Voicemail. It’s a wonderful way of capturing messages when we’re busy doing something where we just don’t want to have to jump to answer the phone, isn’t it? Before voicemail (and answering machines), we just missed out on information or opportunities.

For those of us in sales, the advent of voicemail is both a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? It allows us to leave important messages for our clients. It allows us to keep in touch without actually investing a lot of time chatting with the Chatty Cathy’s and Talkative Tom’s of the world. And, (the curse part) it allows the Evasive Ed’s and Indecisive Ida’s of the world to practice avoidance at the champion level.

Where we run into challenges–where voicemail just doesn’t seem to serve us all that well–is when we don’t properly prepare to use it well. You may think I’m a nit-picker, but I truly believe that any little nuance of selling that isn’t analyzed and used to its highest value could be costing you and me sales.

Understand this: Every client contact is a sales presentation. Read that line again.

You wouldn’t wing it when presenting your product or service, would you? Of course not. You’re a pro! You prepare like one.

Then, why would you not invest a couple of minutes in preparing what you will say in case you have to leave a message when calling a client or potential client? You may have a plan for what you’ll say and the goal of a conversation with that client. But what’s your goal when your “conversation” has to be one-sided because they don’t pick up? What will you say to get them interested enough in speaking with you that they’ll either return your call, meet you somewhere, or pick up the next time you call? And when will that be?

Do yourself a favor and set a goal for every client contact and then prepare accordingly. Develop the questions you need to ask in order to get the answers you want. Be prepared for that one-sided conversation with the client’s voicemail and you’ll start having more two-sided conversations because you provided value or piqued their curiosity and suggested what they should do next rather than winging it with something like, “This is Bob Smith. I was hoping to talk with you. I’ll call back another time.” That’s what winging it sounds like.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Who are you helping? Them? Or yourself?

Before each client contact, ask yourself this: Who are you helping? Them? Or yourself? This means giving yourself a quick attitude check. Are you concerned about your production this month? Or, are you more concerned with whether or not you have the right solution for the client?

LS002546When you present an attitude of helpfulness at the beginning of every client contact, you’ll become a top closer in sales. By approaching selling situations with the goal of helping the client, you won’t come across aggressively—and by no means will you be average or typical. And, with a helpful attitude, you’ll knock the dollar signs out of your eyes, which will put the buyer at ease.

I teach my seminar attendees that a salesperson’s income is a scoreboard reflection of the amount of service he or she gives to others. If you’re not happy with your current score (aka income), it’s time to improve the level of service you’re currently providing.

Improving your service begins with taking on an attitude of servitude. It also means taking control of your personal environment. If something that’s going on in your personal life is distracting you from your job, it may show to potential clients. When they feel you’re distracted, they’ll want to extract themselves from working with you.

Don’t risk losing sales or long-term clients because non-career challenges you are facing distract you from providing the service you know you need to deliver. Do whatever it takes to give your clients all that they expect and deserve. They’ll reward you with their business…and referred leads.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

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How I Built Rapport with Members of Hell’s Angels

I think most salespeople will agree that building rapport is one of the most critical skills a sales pro can develop. Since we work with many different types of clients, we have to think on the run, including the time I built rapport with members of Hell’s Angels.

Don’t you wish we could know about the people we could be serving before we meet them? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just know a couple of things about them in advance so we could prepare our opening lines? Well, that’s rarely the case in sales. Especially in the field of real estate, you never know what you’ll find behind the doors of even the most beautiful homes.

One of the most dramatic examples of needing to make a good first impression happened after about my third year in real estate. At this point, I had finally turned my dismal career around and was doing pretty well. I was wearing the latest style of men’s clothing and driving a brand new Cadillac. The Cadillac was THE real estate car of the 60’s. It was long, sleek and just beautiful. [Read more…]

The Five Skills Every Sales Person Needs

AA018442While the business of selling requires many skills, there are five skills every sales person needs. And, most of us will need to develop these on our own.

You see, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that no one else is going to look out for you as well as you will look out for yourself. To become and remain a professional in business, you must recognize that you are in charge of your own training and act on that fact. Build on your strengths and correct your weaknesses. If you aren’t sure of what to work on first, there is certainly someone in your life who will gladly assist you – your manager, your spouse, your children, a trusted friend.

Here are five skill areas that I strongly recommend you consider developing or strengthening as they have made all the difference for me and my students:


Do you consider yourself a trained negotiator? Trained negotiators can quickly and effectively analyze the details of situations and determine the best route to resolution. If that brief description doesn’t fit you, make an effort to find a book, audio recording or seminar on the subject. Then schedule the time to learn from it. I cover some basic negotiation skills for selling situations in Chapter 16 of my latest book, When Buyers Say NoLook for my recent blog posts on the subject here.


Since your clients choose to own your products or services based on what you say and how you represent them, doesn’t it make sense that you train your voice to give the highest level of professional presentation? If you’ve never considered voice training before, record yourself giving a portion of your presentation. Then listen to it. Most of us hate the sound of our voices. Just imagine how our clients must feel when listening to us. To project your message with clarity and power, consider at least one session with a voice coach. They can be found in your local yellow pages.

Public Speaking

Many sales professionals find that giving short speeches in their communities helps build their name recognition and their business. Public speaking is also a great way to build your confidence. Try your skills out by speaking to your child’s class about what you do or a hobby you have. Teachers love it when the students can learn first-hand about careers. Join Toastmasters International. There are local chapters in just about every city. They provide excellent opportunities to hone your skills and meet other business professionals with whom you might do business or share referrals. To learn how I prepare for presentations myself, go here >>


Having a good memory is critical to anyone in today’s world, but especially so to those of us who meet many new people every week. I have learned to make a game of it in my career. I challenge myself to remember as many people and their stories as I can. There are some great courses and books written on this subject. Even if you learn and use only one small strategy, I guarantee you’ll reap the benefit of having done so.


Don’t cringe at this. I know that there is a large percentage of people who hate math. However, in business, you need to know some basic math skills really well. How does it look when you take too long to calculate figures? Do you think that will raise any doubts about your competency in the client’s mind? Of course it will. Also, when clients toss out figures in their projections, you have to be quick on the uptake in understanding what that means in your business – quantities of supplies they’ll need, projecting delivery dates and times, and so on.

Practice your math skills. Every time you hear or see a number in a conversation or even in a bit of advertising, take a moment to work with the number and see what it means. Compute unit costs for grocery items – $1.29 for a 2-liter bottle of soda. Convert it to ounces, then figure out how much per ounce the soda is. I know the favorite computation of every salesperson who works on a fee basis is to determine their percentage of every sale. Don’t stop there. Play the numbers game often and you’ll get better at winning.

Choose just one of these five areas and dedicate yourself to improving in it this month. Then, next month, choose another. Once you get started on this journey of self-education, you’ll be amazed at what you learn and how simple things can have a powerful impact on your overall success in life.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc. For reprint permission, contact Judy Slack –

Vital Telephone Skills for Sales Pros

Telephone SkillsYou might think that everyone knows how to use a telephone and that the topic of Vital Telephone Skills for Sales Pros is antiquated. For some, possibly you, that may be true. However, based on the calls received by me, my wife, and members of my staff, there is a great lack of skill in the general selling populace. Because of our experiences, even recently, we all agreed this topic should be addressed.

The pathway to riches is that opening in the front of your head called a mouth and one of your biggest assets is the telephone. Most appointments are set by telephone and there are certain steps to follow to do it well. [Read more…]

Closing Deals

  • If you’re a long time student of my training, that title is a “gotcha.” You’re probably reading this because of one of the words I used. If it caught your attention, read the rest of this post as a “back to basics review.”
  • If you’re new to my training, I’m thrilled that you’ll be learning this critical aspect of selling.

Closing salesAs you begin reading this post, please look at the title once again. Closing Deals. What you are seeing there is a word you should never use in any business or negotiation situation. It’s the word deal. Take this advice to heart and never, ever use that word when talking with the people you hope to do business with.

What does the word deal bring to mind? For most people, it brings to mind something that we’ve always wanted, but never really gotten—a good deal. Rather than risk turning off a potential client with a word that could raise their defense barriers, I strongly suggest you use the word opportunity. Opportunity is a much more positive word. It brings to mind thoughts of getting ahead, getting a break, or taking a chance on something with a positive potential outcome.

Another alternative for the word deal is the word transaction. In B-B situations, you are transacting business. So call it what it is – a transaction. Using the term deal just might start your buyer down the road to second-guessing the decision. It might also turn the sale into a negotiation that might have been avoided if you hadn’t raised a red flag with your words.

Few business professionals put much thought into the words they use when speaking with clients. They don’t seem to understand that words have the power to make or break a sale at any stage. You could have clients excited about your product or service and ready to go ahead and say one wrong word. The sale comes to a screeching halt and you aren’t even sure why. The clients stall. They back-pedal. They want to think it over. What happened?

You said something that created negative emotions. You created doubt either in the benefits they will receive from the product or about the value they’re getting for their investment. They got scared and created a quick defense barrier to keep the sale from going any further.

You see, words create pictures in our minds. Those pictures then cause us to have certain emotions—either negative or positive.

The goal of anyone in sales or in a position where they need to persuade others is to create only positive emotions with positive mental pictures. Negative mental pictures create fear or cause people to raise defense barriers against whatever you’re proposing. They can cause people to lose interest in you, your brand or the product itself.

The key to closing every opportunity or transaction is to eliminate fear in the minds of your potential clients. It works like this: Words create pictures that create emotions. And, people make buying decisions emotionally. Then, they defend their decisions with logic. So, it’s critical to closing that you understand how to eliminate negative emotions and create positive ones.

I have a list of 17 words that I recommend you eliminate from your vocabulary. Here are just a few:

1. Cost or Price. What comes to mind when you hear those words? For most people, they envision their money leaving their wallets. Or, their debt increasing. Neither of those are positive images, are they? Rather than using the words cost or price, use the phrases total amount or total investment. Do you feel the difference? The term amount isn’t as strong a negative as cost. And, the term investment has a positive connotation. When you make a wise investment, you get something of value for it, don’t you?

  • Don’t say: This product costs $500.
  • Say: The total amount for this product is only $500.

2. Contract. What happens when we get involved with a contract? First of all, it’s a legal document. Mom and Dad have always told us never to sign one and to read the fine print. To get out of one often involves a lawyer. So, how are you feeling about this word now? Eliminate it from your vocabulary if you want to increase your sales volume. Instead, use the terms agreement, paperwork, or form. We all know they mean the same thing as contract. They just don’t create the negative mental image of one.

  • Don’t say: Let’s fill out all the details on our contract so you can get started.
  • Say: Let’s put everything in writing on the agreement to see if getting started even makes sense.

3. Sign. This word needs to go the way of the word contract. That’s because they create hesitation in the mind of the buyer. Use the words approve, authorize, endorse or okay. Say something like this when it’s time to close: John, if you’ll just approve the paperwork right here, we’ll welcome you to our family of satisfied clients.

  • Don’t say: John, if you’ll just sign right here, we’ll get your delivery date set up.
  • Say: John, with your approval right here, we’ll arrange for delivery at your convenience.

4. Cheaper. Do you really want to have your clients think your product or service is cheaper? Look it up in a thesaurus. The other similar words aren’t conducive to good thoughts on the part of your buyer. Replace cheaper with more economical.

  • Don’t say: Our product is cheaper than the competition.
  • Say: Our product is more economical than that of the competition.

Please also keep in mind that every closed sale equates to the opening of a new relationship. Every relationship you develop in a positive manner with the people you serve, will bring you closer to achieving the goals you have set for yourself personally and with your loved ones. Every satisfied client has the potential of introducing you to many more people you can serve with your product or service. The more professionally you handle their needs, the more likely you will receive a steady stream of leads and referrals. Referred leads are the best kind because those folks will already have a positive impression about you and your product from their friends or relatives, which makes closing transactions easier and easier every time!

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Listen Up! Nancy Friedman, Guest Post

Do you know what the number one skill in sales and service is?

I gave you a hint in the title. Right – listening skills.

Do we really LISTEN? Most of us ‘hear,’ but do we really listen to what people are saying? Are there any methods, tricks, ideas, tips or techniques to make us better listeners? Yes, there are. Listed below are some of the often used skills of better listeners.

What do you think the difference is between listening and hearing?

Bottom line: Hearing is physical. Listening is mental.

[Read more…]

When an Objection isn’t an Objection – Guest Post

mikebrooks_speaker2When an Objection isn’t an Objection – Guest Post by Mike Brooks, aka Mr. Inside Sales

When is an objection NOT an objection? When it comes at the beginning of your presentation.

The blow offs you get at this stage are merely initial resistance, and the last thing you want to do is try to overcome them. Instead, you must acknowledge you heard them and direct your prospect to get your proposal, quote or other material so you can engage with them and deliver your presentation.

This is easy to do if you have the right scripts and techniques to accomplish this.

Here are some sample scripts to deal with the initial resistance you get when closing:

Initial resistance #1:
“I looked it over and I’m/we’re not interested.”

Response #2:
“I didn’t expect you to be interested; our marketing department hasn’t yet figured out a way to get our prospects to call us back – and that’s why they hired me! But seriously, this (product/service) has some great features that aren’t readily available in the (demo/material/information) I sent you, and it’ll only take a couple of minutes to find out if they would be a fit and benefit you. Tell you what, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes with me to find out how and if this would be right for you. Grab the information/quote/brochure and let me cover a few things – do you have it handy?

Initial resistance #2:
“I don’t have the time right now.”

Response #1:
“That’s fine ________, we’ll schedule a better time to go over this. Quick question, though: when we do get back together on this, what are some of the areas I should be prepared to go over with you?”

Initial resistance #3:
“It’s not for us/me.”

Response #2:
“It may appear that way now ________, and you may not have enough information nor understand it well enough to be interested. In fact, most people I call back feel the same way you do – they think this is (Quickly list one or two perceived negative points), so I don’t blame you for not being interested. I wouldn’t be either if that was true. But ________, that isn’t how this (product/service) works. To begin with (list two or three benefits that contradict the first couple of negatives you just gave). These are just some of the things you need to be aware of before you make any decision. Do yourself a favor and get that (quote/demo/email/brochure) and I’ll show you how this might work for you, too. I’ll be happy to hold on while you grab it.”

Initial resistance #4:
“We looked at your material and this just isn’t for us right now.”

Response #2:
“No problem ________. Tell you what let’s do – because things change, and while this is fresh in your mind, let’s take a few minutes now to match up how this can help you when the timing is better for you. Is that (brochure, quote, demo) handy, or do I need to hold on while you grab it?”

Initial resistance #5:
“We already have a supplier or dealer or service person.”

Response #1:
“I know and we spoke about that earlier. Remember, I’m not calling to have you replace your current supplier/company, rather, you were looking at this to see how you might improve the results of what you’re currently getting. Tell you what, do me a favor and grab the (demo, information) and let me show you how, if you decide to branch out in the future, this might help you (fill their expressed need from your first call). I’ll be happy to hold on while you grab it.”

Do you see how this works? Again, do not try to overcome the initial resistance you get when closing, instead, be prepared for it and earn the right to present your product or service!

Would you like 16 more word for word scripts targeted to overcome initial resistance when closing? And, would you like over 200 other scripts and techniques to help you overcome resistance, build rapport with decision makers and close more sales over the phone? Then Click Here and get a copy of Mike’s completely Updated and Revised for 2014 ebook, “The Complete Book of Phone Scripts!” You’ll be glad you did!

Decision-Making in Sales

Puzzle PeopleDecision-making in sales situations is not drastically unlike making decisions in life in general. Before you can help a potential client make a decision about owning your product or service, you must have certain knowledge. That knowledge will give you power in the selling situation because knowledge is power but only when properly applied.

So, what knowledge is it that you need?

  1. You need knowledge about your product or service. How strong is your product knowledge? Can you answer any question that pops up during a client contact? Granted 80% of your clients will likely ask you the same questions about your product but what about that other 20%? Don’t you want to serve their needs as well? Get your product knowledge down. Never wing it with answers about your product or service.
  2. You need knowledge of your current inventory. You never know when a chance encounter will find you facing someone with a desire and the means to purchase multiple quantities of your product. How embarrassing would it be to make the sale, then have to tell them your product is on back order or that you don’t have enough in stock to fulfill their entire order?
  3. If your product is one that requires some folks to finance it over time, what type of financing is available? How many ways do you know of for them to afford and own your product today?
  4. Do you know if this person you’re investing your valuable time with is qualified to own your product? If not, here’s how to ask about it, in a polite, and non-threatening way: “John, who other than yourself might be involved in making a final decision?” “Mary, what’s the procedure for making purchasing decisions?”
  5. Is this person ready, able and willing to make a decision today? Too many salespeople waste time presenting to people who have no intention of owning their products or at the very least no intention of owning today. They are just “researching” the product or “interested” in it. Consider working this question into your conversation, “If this product is right for your needs, how soon do you expect to make a buying decision?”  Or, “How urgent is your need to get this product on your shelves?” Get the answer to this question early in your client meetings and you’ll have the knowledge you need to maximize your efforts with them.

If you don’t have this knowledge, you don’t have what’s necessary to close a sale. This knowledge will indicate to you how to work with each and every potential client.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

Auto Sales – It’s not what you say

How you say itIt’s not what you say in auto sales, but how you say it that counts, right? I’m certain you’ve heard that cliché hundreds of times.

In business, what you say is just as important as how you say it. In selling vehicles, you must learn to paint mental pictures in the minds of your potential clients. Those pictures show them being, happier, having more fun, less stressed, being sexier, safer, better looking, economically- or environmentally-minded, or well-to-do because of their ownership of one of your vehicles. You must strike each person’s buying nerve in a positive way by paying attention to the pictures your words are creating.

While most of what you say is specific to the particular vehicles you represent, there are many words that are commonly used in selling situations that you need to pay attention to. Some bring about positive images. Others don’t.

Here are a few to get you started on the road to more closed sales. [Read more…]