Chunk it Down

I often seem to have far too many great ideas and projects in various stages of completion. That unfortunately leads me to feel overwhelmed and lacking focus. Does this happen to you?

Though I used to believe that multi-tasking was a good thing, I’ve come to realize that thinking we can multi-task and still be effective is far from the truth. The real key to achieving our goals is focus and that can only happen if you chunk your projects or your objectives down into bite-sized pieces.

Why You Procrastinate
Procrastination for most of us becomes a challenge, because when the task seems to big it’s easy to put off getting it done. In Brian Tracy’s book - Eat that Frog - he talks about taking on the toughest things first when kicking off the day. The idea is that it’s better to get the hardest things done first before everything else, because usually the toughest things are the most important.

I’ve put into practice this idea of doing the hardest things first - the things that usually take the longest, but boy of boy is the feeling of getting it done worth it!

Start With One Step
Wired as we are, you will definitely find it much easier to break down your projects into manageable steps and then take them on one at a time. Work through each step to the very end. Finish it before moving to the next. Before you know it - you’re done!

Forget Perfect - Just Get Going
This can sometimes be a killer for me. I’m so worried about getting it perfect that I don’t get started at all. Get going - that’s the key. Once you start moving forward the energy and momentum of the project takes on a life of it’s own. You’ll begin to feel excited and motivated about what you’ve accomplished.

So as you are winding down 2008 and thinking about what you want to accomplish in the coming year…make your list, then break each objective into bite sized chunks and then get moving!

Sales Blunder #10: Not asking for the business

Hard to believe isn’t it? So much work goes into networking, securing appointments, making the presentations, writing the proposals and then somehow you never actually get around to asking for the sale. Even if you lack confidence or experience, closing doesn’t have to be painful or bewildering.

Here are a few basic points to follow:

Close from the beginning - not to be confused with the old fashioned hard sell; cutthroat approaches rarely works anymore. You are better off letting your prospect know exactly what you’re selling and how you believe what you offer can benefit their business. Sell value, integrity and, above all, relationship. Using this type of approach paves the way for a smoother close.

Learn to recognize the buying signals. There are lots of ways that people let us know when they are ready to buy, but you need to pay attention. For example, they might indicate their readiness by asking you questions about the solution or the buying process. Listen for the clues: “How long would delivery take?” “When could we expect the work to be finished?” or “Is an upgrade available?”

Don’t respond to questions with a “yes” or “no”. Answer the prospect’s questions with questions of your own. Carefully chosen, these return questions can help lead to a sale. For example, instead of answering the question: “Does this model come in silver?” with merely an affirmative, you could say: “Would you like it in silver?”

Suggest specific terms. Rather than asking whether your prospect wants to buy, suggest a specific buying scenario and then ask if your customer agrees to it. For example, “We can start the coaching project on Tuesday for a retainer of $5,000. Would you like us to do that?” If your prospect is uncomfortable with any of the specifics, they will certainly let you know. Make sure you know enough about their needs before undertaking this approach. Otherwise, you risk sounding pushy.

Well, there you have it. The Top 10 Sales Blunders and How You Can Avoid Them. I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey as much as I have. My passion is in helping YOU to attract more clients and close more sales, more often.

Sales Blunder #9: You Don’t Understand Your Prospects Buying Cycle

There are four distinct phases to the buying cycle that you need to be aware of. Learn to recognize these phases when talking to your prospective clients and save yourself time and heartburn down the road.

  • Phase I: Need - your prospect is aware that some sort of change is required either in themselves or in the company they work for; they may feel uneasy or possibly under pressure to quickly find a solution to the problem.
  • Phase 2: Learn - knowing there is a need; your prospect sets out to research products or services that may potentially fix their problem. They are asking themselves who offers the best solution, so they will compare the offerings of several different companies during this phase.
  • Phase 3: Buy - fear about choosing the right solution is weighing heavily on your prospect’s mind at this point. They’re thinking: “What if I make a mistake? What if the sales person oversold the capability of their product or service? What if I commit to this approach and it doesn’t solve the problem like I think it will? Will my career be in jeopardy if I make a mistake with this decision? Will we be able to agree to terms?”
  • Phase 4: Value - in the value phase, your prospect is considering whether or not they will see the results that they’ve been promised. They might be wondering if they’ll really end up satisfied with the solution. They are weighing the value of the solution against the problem they need to solve and evaluating the risks involved with potentially making the wrong decision.

Make sure you understand what phase of the buying process your customer is currently in. This will help you be more aware of the issues at stake and make you better prepared for selling your solution.

Sales Blunder #8: Failing to Adapt Your Sales Style

In most things in life, a one-size-fits-all approach is rarely effective. This is especially true with selling. Approaching the sale the same way with every person just doesn’t work. Sure, you might be marginally successful with a few who have a similar style to yours, but you’ll be losing the chance to sell your product or service to about 75% of those others who are very different from you.

As you meet prospective clients observe their pace - do they walk fast, talk fast and ask rapid fire questions? If the answer is “yes”, your best bet is to dispense with the pleasantries, cut to the chase, tell them what results they’ll get when they work with you, and then get out of their office. Others you’ll encounter will want detailed explanations and facts and figures to back up what you are offering, to be reassured that the buying risk they are taking won’t leave them twisting in the wind.


To get started you’ve got to know yourself first. Assess your current sales strengths and capabilities. Get to know what you’re really good at and definitely get to know where you have challenges in the sales process. What comes next is learning about the personality styles of other people and what works for them in the sales process.

An important tool that you can use is the Everything DiSC Sales Profile to help you understand exactly where you excel and where you will need help. And more importantly, you will learn exactly what you need to do adapt your communication and pace in order to better connect with your prospect. When you understand how to meet people where they are and give them what they need during their buying process, your sales success will definitely soar!

Sales Blunder #7: Failure to Do Your homework

Once you’ve secured the appointment, the real work begins. You must decide what your objective for your meeting - whether it’s face to face or on the telephone - actually is and then create questions that lead the conversation to the destination you have in mind. I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is for you to PLAN for your meeting BEFORE walking in the door or calling them on the phone. Shooting from hip gets your nowhere, so if you are serious about closing sales, you need to do your homework.


The first thing you need to do is determine your top 1-2 objectives for your sales meeting. It might be to generate enough interest to secure another meeting or get the purchasing commitment right on the spot. Whatever your goal, you must be very clear what outcome you expect to achieve when you sit down to meet.

To keep your meeting on point and focused on your objectives, I recommend that you sit down and plan at least 10 questions that you will ask during that meeting. Think about how you can create them in two ways, just in case the answer to your first question falls flat. For example, if you ask: “How was your most recent quarterly sales performance?” and they say “fine”, you need to be prepared to ask the question another way in order to get more information.

Frame your questions using “how” and “what”. Open ended questions tend to elicit answers that give you more than a simple “yes” or “no”. Preparing questions ahead of time keeps your conversation focused and flowing, and you are far more likely to listen to the answers and learn what you need, when you have considered your questions in advance.

Sales Blunder #6: Losing opportunity on first phone call

Let’s say you’ve been consistent and persistent and you finally get your prospect on the line. Do you know what you plan to say?

The reality is that 65% of all sales are lost in that opening telephone call. And frankly, this could apply to how you leave voicemails also.

If you think back to my very first blunder, I talked about how most people selling a product or service tend to default to a feature dump. That usually happens in telephone calls too. This is NOT the time to “sell” your prospect something or to be talking about yourself.

Here are the elements to think about before making your call:

  • Introduction - A great call starts with this foundation! Clearly introduce yourself - first name, last name, your company - be confident and above all, be articulate. You don’t get a second chance to make that critical first impression, so take it seriously. If you are leaving a phone mail ALWAYS leave your telephone number at the beginning and end of your message.
  • Grab their interest - determine what might capture their interest long enough to spend a few minutes talking with you. What economic trends might be affecting their industry? What challenges do your current clients mention to you that might also apply to your prospect? Take the pressure off yourself and them by getting them engaged in a conversation with you.
  • Ask for time - Once you’ve captured their attention, ask them for a few more minutes. Then stick to the agreement. If you asked for 10 minutes, end the call in that time or less. Demonstrate that you are a professional who respects their busy schedule. Your goal is to secure a future appointment, so don’t try to sell them in the first call. Get them interested and they’ll be far more likely to want to meet with you.

Don’t just roll into your sales pitch. Take the time to put a framework in place for building a relationship with your prospect. Using this approach, you capture their interest in a way that lets them know you are a professional, that you understand their world. And you’ve gotten them to talk about issues that you know your product or service can help them solve. Now, that’s a great first step!

Sales Blunder #5: Giving up too quickly

No matter what business you are in, you’ve got to sell. Developing a sales mindset means you need to understand the sales “process” and then follow it persistently and consistently.

As a sales veteran, I can tell you that the sale rarely happens as a result of a first meeting. On average, it takes 7 “touches” before you will close the deal. That means you’ve got to stick with it long enough for your prospect to become a client. Herbert True, a marketing specialist at the University of Notre Dame studied sales behavior and discovered some interesting things.

  • 44% of all people quit trying after the 1st call.
  • 24% quit after the 2nd call.
  • 14% quit after the 3rd call.
  • 12% quit trying to sell their prospect after the 4th call.

Statistically speaking, people give up pretty easily, even those who call themselves Sales Professionals. Ninety-four percent of the people quit after the 4th phone call; yet, True’s research found that 60% of all sales were made after the 4th call.

What would happen if you became one of the 6% who kept going and tapped the 60% of business that comes after four or more calls? So, get going! Look over your prospect list right now…find out with whom you need to reconnect in order to make the sale and do it!

Sales Blunder #4: Poor Qualifying Skills

Working with clients, I notice that they often expend too much time and energy focused on opportunities that have little to no potential for actually becoming a bona fide sale. This happens because they have not taken the time to ask the right questions - questions that will help them determine if they should be spending time on this prospect now or following up on in three months from now.

Does this sound familiar?

You met someone at an event and they said they wanted to know more about your service. You called them and scheduled an appointment, met with them and told them all about what you have to offer. They suggest you write a proposal, which you feel pretty good about because you think that means they are really interested. So, you spend several hours putting together that killer proposal and send it over thinking a sale is coming any day. But then when you follow up they say…well, we really don’t have the budget right now, so call me back in 6 months. Excuse me? Even worse is when you realize that all that hard work crafting your proposal was merely a way for them to get their current provider to lower their price! Yup, at some point it has happened to all of us.

Remember that just because someone expresses interest in learning more about your product or service, that doesn’t mean they have the means or the ability to buy right now. Before you spend much time scheduling meetings, crafting presentations or submitting proposals to your prospect, be sure you ask the questions that will help you determine what stage of the buying cycle they are in.

The key is having a healthy sales pipeline is to learn how to balance between closing short-term sales and developing long-term opportunities. Here are some examples of the type of questions you can ask:

  • When do you plan to make your purchase?
  • Do you have budget now or is this something you are thinking about for next year?
  • Are you the only one who is involved in the buying decision?
  • How long does it usually take for a buying decision to be made?
  • Is there paperwork required for me to complete to be considered as a vendor?

Don’t be shy about asking questions right up front that help you better qualify your potential prospects ability to buy now. You will save yourself time and a lot of aggravation!

Sales Blunder #3: Ineffective Networking

People often complain to me that they feel frustrated with their networking efforts. In probing further, I generally figure out that the problem is not that they aren’t attending networking events, but it’s that they are attending them at random, exchanging business cards with everyone they meet and then perplexed when nothing happens. I call these folks “serial networkers”. They confuse a lot of activity with effectiveness and they are not the same thing! Based on 30+ years of selling experience, I can tell you that most people haven’t learned a system for building a network that when worked in a consistent way produces results.

The trick is to think about networking as a process - a journey - rather than an event. Whether you are building a business or looking to secure that next big promotion, the quality and strength of your net is critical. Oh, and by the way, even when you have a job or business is good - you must NEVER stop putting focus on building your network. Do so at your own peril! The time to build a network is not when you need it most - like when you’ve just lost your job.

Ok, so are you noticing a theme here? The process of net building contains several core elements, such as writing down your goals, using a tracking mechanism, choosing activities that match your goals and getting out there on a consistent basis. Think about what you want to accomplish and focus your efforts accordingly. For you, it could be a mix of phone calls, attending events or making contributions on social media sites (yes, it can definitely lead to business!) As you consider your net building activities, think about where your potential client is most likely to be. Simple as it sounds - go there!

Once you have clarified what you want to accomplish, it is time to put a few simple practical steps into place and watch your networking attitude and efforts improve.

  • Write down your goals
  • Develop a mix of activities and then wisely choose where to place your focus
  • Create a database to track your network
  • Map your network - determine A, B, C contacts (it will help with scheduling how often you contact them)
  • Pay it Forward - make it your goal to COLLECT business cards - not just hand yours out!
  • Block time weekly to focus on building the strength of your network

Building strong relationships is the key to closing sales. This one simple truth is the timeless secret to long-term success, so take your networking efforts seriously - get going and start building that powerhouse network today!

Sales Blunder #2: Forgetting that Sales is a Process

In order to sell your product or service, you need to keep in mind that it is all about filling a need. When you meet someone for the first time, you have no idea what they need or want and you will get yourself in trouble if you assume that you. Rather than spitting out a sales pitch that is focused on you and not on your prospect, your goal is to gather information by asking great questions. You want to get to know as much as you can about your potential customer. That takes time and it’s worth it, because successful sales and marketing is the result of building great relationships.

A sale is a process NOT a onetime event! Don’t be one of those people who naively believe that you will meet someone who has an interest in what you are offering and think that after just one meeting the deal is done. I wish! It is important for you to be realistic and recognize that on average it will take 7-8 touches to close your sale depending on the complexity of what you have to offer.

A touch can be defined in a number of ways…phone call, face-to-face meeting, email, etc. Your goal after meeting someone is to find ways to connect with your prospective client in ways that add value to them. This is a sure fire way for building your credibility and the relationship.

Here are just a few ways to reach out and “touch” your prospect:

  • Send them an article that pertains to their industry or to a business challenge they are facing with a personal note care from you.
  • Make a virtual introduction to someone who would be a good client for them.
  • Invite them to attend a networking event with you as your guest.
  • Offer to interview them for an article you are writing or connect them with a press contact that can get their company some publicity.

Finally, have a plan for what you want to achieve with your sales and marketing efforts. One of my all time favorite guru’s Napoleon Hill said it best when he said that achieving what we want depends on these things:

  • Have a definite purpose.
  • Back that purpose with a plan.
  • Support that plan with intelligent action.

As he was to discover in doing his research for Think and Grow rich, the 2% of the population that is widely rich and successful all had a clearly defined purpose.