Nightmare salespeople: mistakes when presenting the offer

By Alice Alessandri and Alberto Aleo

present the offerHaving analyzed mistakes in receiving and listening to customers, the time has come to address the moment when we present the offer. The aim of this phase is to generate the customers’ interest, focusing their attention not only on the material aspects and on price, but also on the value of the entire offer system that will contribute to satisfying  their needs. The moment when we present the offer can be delicate and it’s all too easy to make a mistake, in fact we have gathered a range of cases that involve nightmare salespeople whose behavior undermines  the successful outcome of even the most  tempting offer, forcing customers to decide against a purchase which they had already chosen to make.

Over-the-top or pushy

There is a whole category of nightmare salespeople convinced that,  rather than risk not saying enough, it is better to add a bit more when they present the offer. During a course we once came across a salesperson selling web services who reads out all the clauses of the contract before even explaining what he can offer his customers. Basically, he starts by setting out the rules for a relationship whose benefits he has yet to describe! When we suggested he should reflect on whether ‘it would be to start by illustrating what  services you provide?’ our pushy salesperson explained that in his view it was ‘better to make things clear at the outset to avoid arguments later’. A rather worrying viewpoint  that will most likely put the keenest customer off making a purchase. This is the point: quite often salespeople themselves are so concerned about possible objections that they actually anticipate them or believe it is better to overwhelm the customer with technical details, so they will be too bewildered to object.
In addition to those sellers who are so insecure that they then become insistent, there is another category of nightmare salespeople ready to push back the boundaries of reality by inventing non-existent benefits. Our town has a salesperson who’d sell you two shoes of different sizes by arguing that  ‘we all have one foot larger than the other, and you can always add an insole’. It sounds unlikely, but unfortunately it’s true!

Greedy or lazy

pigriziaWhat about those nightmare salespeople who are so reluctant to present the offer that their customers must wrest the information from them,  almost as if it were a state secret?
The real-estate agent who fails to send you the layout of the house you’re interested in buying,  the saleswoman selling firewood who had to be convinced by us, her prospective customers, to supply our whole condo for the winter (it would have been easier to go out and chop the wood down ourselves),  the waiter who does not inform you in advance of changes to the menu but just says ‘Sorry, it’s off’ every time you make a choice and without suggesting an alternative. Sometimes it can become quite a feat to buy something!
We should also mention the car salesman who when asked,  ‘Can we check the engine power on the brochure?’ told us that no-one uses brochures nowadays because you can search the internet. When we insisted, saying ‘So, can we take a look together?’ he waved us off with a rather annoyed: ‘You can look yourselves when you get home!’ He was clearly telling us to leave, and just as we were about to finalize the details.

Unprepared or distracted

Being able to sell involves not only having communication skills but also specific competences that emerge when the time comes to present the offer. These competences enable us to respond appropriately to the customers’ needs (that came out earlier in the listening phase). Many nightmare salespeople think that they only need to smooth-talk their customers and add a winning smile to convince them to buy. A few months ago, while we were at the hairdresser’s, two elegant and rather blasé sales reps for hair products entered, and we were amazed to hear the following dialogue:

  • Seller: ‘This shampoo is silicone-free, paraben-free, …’ and so on, reciting a list of technical terms
  • Hairdresser: ‘So, how does it clean your hair?’
  • Seller (embarassed): “er … I don’t know”
  • Hairdresser (surprised) ‘Have you got a sample so I can try it out, at least?’
  • Seller (all hope lost): ‘No, I haven’t!’

Equally illuminating is the case of the agency specializing in house lets, whose mission reads “listening to customers and responding to their needs in a personalized way”, that after a series of meetings, interviews and visits to determine the ideal tenant to whom we could let, turned up with a numerous family that would supposedly cram into our two-roomed apartment: they could hardly all fit in together to have a look around, let alone live there! We were all disappointed and embarrassed; the only one who pretended nothing was wrong was the estate agent who continued undeterred in her attempt to convince us it was a great solution.

relazione-nel-tempoBeing either over-anxious or over-eager to close a deal, or the fear of “showing that I need to make a sale” and “avoid wasting time”, can lead us to commit errors when we present the offer, making us forget that sales is an activity based on a relationship that is built over time. If we consider a sale as a single moment in which we “go all-in”, or otherwise believe that the way we behave today will have no effect on the future and on our reputation, is a serious mistake. Unfortunately, we Increasingly come across salespeople who are unable to present the offer, forcing their customers to make a considerable effort and to “convince themselves” or give up. In sales ethics the best way to present the offer it is to integrate the value it expresses with the value that the customers want in terms of satisfying their needs and responding to their deepest motivations for the purchase. Do you want to tell us about your experience with some nightmare salespeople? Share your story in a comment to this article or write us and tell us about your best practice.

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Mission and Vision: what exactly are they? How do you create and use them?

By Alberto Aleo

mission and visionSome time ago Massimo Gramellini, the vice editor of one of Italy’s leading newspapers, La Stampa, surprised readers of his daily editorial by saying:

We won’t beat the crisis by doing what other people know how to do and doing it better, but by doing better what only we know how to do

A clear invitation to differentiate, to consider your professional activities not only in quantitative terms, as a source of income, but also as a tool to achieve higher goals. This post will discuss two tools that are useful for defining the objectives related to your values and your deepest aspirations, as well as the results of an organization or of anyone who wants to tackle the market.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY MISSION AND VISION?

Mission and Vision are both terms referring to what you want to achieve, as well as how and why you do it. Both will help you tell your story to the market, articulating your challenge and clarifying your reason for being in a way that proves appealing. They both therefore enable you to motivate the people who work with you as well as potential customers. Specifically, your mission is responsible for defining your goals in the short and medium term and addresses both customers and employees, while your vision looks further ahead, and also takes account of the effect your actions will have on the market as a whole, and on society.

BUILDING A MISSION AND A VISION

The job of defining your goals can be lengthy because it raises questions about the underlying reasons and values that led you to take a particular path. So we propose a number of questions you can ask yourself when drafting your mission and vision statements:

  • What are the tangible and intangible goals I want to achieve?
  • What benefits will I get by achieving this goal?
  • What benefits will my customer obtain?
  • What skills, abilities and characteristics will support me?
  • What is my action plan?
  • Why did I choose this goal?
  • What values and beliefs will guide me in achieving my objectives?
  • Once my objective is achieved, what will my working environment be like and how will this affect my customers’ future?
  • How will my organization change once the objective is reached?

EXAMPLES

computerA considerable time before it seemed actually viable, Bill Gates talked about “A computer on every desk and in every home”, a single phrase that summed up a project that, as we know, has since been achieved. The simplicity of this statement contains all the basic features of a good objective: the benefit for the company (helping to computerize the world and sell more software) and purchasers (to have access to empowering IT tools). For effectiveness and forthrightness, we also love the mission of the Caritas charity which states “A hot meal for every homeless person”. These are just two examples among many, but get used to studying the structure of the mission and vision statements of the companies you admire most and then use them as inspiration when forming your own goals.

USE MISSION AND VISION

Companies use mission and vision as communication tools, and they therefore often appear in the appropriate sections of a company’s catalogues and websites, but this is not the only use for them. They are, in fact, fundamental for communicating with your organization, for motivating people and focusing the group on a common goal. They are at the basis of your image, your business strategy and differential value. So use them in a dynamic and productive way to make it clear to yourself and to others who you are, what you do and why.

A VALUE-BASED COMPANY

A value-based company relies on its values and its vision to differentiate itself in the market, build its image and to prompt customers to choose this particular company. As the most advanced marketing theories confirm,  customer choices are not only guided by the characteristics of what we are selling: reflecting on values creates new sales opportunities and expands the market through the mechanism that Dr. Brian Arthur termed “incremental margins”.

passodue.itAt this point you may have asked yourself, what are Passodue’s mission and vision? You can find the answer by watching the video on the site www.passodue.com. This is the way we have chosen to communicate our goals, values and our vision of business. How will you choose to express yours?

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Nightmare salespeople: mistakes when listening to customer needs

by Alice Alessandri e Alberto Aleo

not listeningWe all know that in sales the person asking the questions takes control; nevertheless, very few salespeople have really developed the ability to ask a question and then listening to the answer. But among sellers, the nightmare salespeople are the worst offenders, and we can divide them into two categories: the fortune-tellers, who know in advance what the customer wants to buy, and the cops who give their customers a third-degree, and then apparently judge them on the answers given. In this second installment of the saga of Nightmare Salespeople, we are going to take a look at the most frequent mistakes made when asking and listening in order to get some handy tips on what NOT to do during an ethical sale.

“He’s a cheapskate: he’s not going to buy anything”

We could write a book full of stories about salespeople who claim to know at a glance whether a customer will buy or not. Sales veterans who whisper an aside to their colleagues, bosses and friends before greeting a customer just to show off their expertise: “This one will make a purchase – just wait and see,” or “No way is she reaching for her wallet – I’m ready to bet on it”. There is a good chance in both cases that their forecast will be correct, but not because they are able to see into the future, rather they have unwittingly contributed to their prediction coming true. If we treat customers with courtesy and attention because we are convinced they are going to make a purchase, then we are actually encouraging them to do so. On the other hand, nobody would buy from a person who considers them a cheapskate.  Sometimes you might suspect that these “fortune-tellers” would rather lose a sale than admit they were wrong; like the man selling posters who first of all complained to us about the crisis and then added, “unfortunately I’ve sold all the best items, so I don’t suppose you’ll find anything you like”! As we were leaving the shop with no purchases, he said goodbye with a bitter smile and commented rather smugly, “I knew you wouldn’t find anything.” Leaving customers space to manoeuvre without being guided by your own prejudices is a gift that only ethical salespeople have, but it can be developed with a specific course.

“Yes, yes, I see!”

i seeSometimes sellers may ask the right questions but then become distracted and fail to listen to the answer because they are already preparing their next gambit, or else they anticipate what they believe the customer is about to say, hoping to make a good impression, as if to say “add no more, I know what you mean already because I’m so good at my job!” This happened once to Alice when she rang to enrol in an advanced specialization course: every time she tried to explain her needs the over- zealous salesperson stopped her, saying “Yes, of course, I understand” and then suggested something that was completely unsuitable. After several attempts Alice gave up trying to explain what she actually wanted and chose to apply to a different school. Active listening is the basis of sales.

“That beer sucks!”

There is nothing worse than a salesperson who makes the customer feel judged for his/her taste. Alberto once went to a popular beer garden whose owner was well-known for his expertise; thinking he was in good hands, he decided to ask for some advice before ordering. The host started off correctly by asking a series of questions to understand what Alberto’s tastes were, including “What’s your favourite beer?” But the expert in question did not appreciate Alberto’s answer, and responded dismissively “it sucks”. As if that were not enough, and despite Alberto’s evident embarrassment and discomfort, he continued by practically subjecting Alberto to an interrogation, piling question upon question and peppering his utterances with negative and disparaging comments. Asking questions is fine, but be careful about the tone you use. Above all, remember that merely giving an answer involves a relationship of trust: you cannot attack your customers with a barrage of questions.

InterrogationWhat about the salesperson in a jewellers who responded to the customer’s opening request, “I want to buy my sister a watch, can you give me some advice?” with an impatient “Go outside and take a look at the window so you have a better idea about what you want”? Or how about the bike dealer who replied to the question “have you got carbon frames?” by looking the customer up and down and sarcastically commenting “and what exactly would you do with a carbon bike”? The art of asking questions and listening with an open mind, avoiding any sort of judgment or prejudice, helps not only when selling but throughout life in general. In fact, the way we see it, an ethical seller is also, and above all, a likeable person.

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“Entrepreneurs on a mission from God”: when success serves the common good

by Alberto Aleo

we are on a mission from GodDo you remember the scene in the movie The Blues Brothers when John Belushi says ‘we are on a mission from God’ to describe his plan to put a band together? It makes you smile, but it also makes you think a little by suggesting the idea that even the “strangest” talent may be used for a higher cause. Inspired by this legendary line I want to consider with you whether there is a relationship between our spirituality (which is linked to the sense of ethics) and the ability to achieve success and wealth in life. In particular, can you be a successful entrepreneur while remaining a good person? Or, looking at it from a different  angle, is it possible that the fact that you are a good person can lead you to achieve wealth and success?

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…”

This is perhaps one of the best-known metaphors used by Jesus. Over the centuries its meaning has been misunderstood or distorted by people’s interpretations; interests that were more Bolshevik than religious made it a fundamental stumbling block in the eternal conflict between success and salvation that has afflicted our society for generations. More or less directly, in fact we were taught as children that in life you have to choose: either be ethical and stay poor but honest, or attempt the climb to the pinnacle of success in the certainty that in the process of getting rich you will lose your soul. We find ourselves at a crossroads that obliges us to make a sacrifice of one kind or another by contrasting material prosperity with inner well-being. This dichotomy, moreover, allows “good” people to be defeatist and to condemn those who get results, while the latter feel entitled to behave unethically, especially as they seem to have been automatically precluded from entering the “kingdom of heaven”. It was this social cleavage, which denies the community benefit of the role of wealth, that Max Webber underlined in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, evidencing the limits of the catholic approach to economics.

Making the most of our “Talents”

talentsThe reference is to another well-known parable from the Gospels in which the master rebukes the servant who failed to demonstrate initiative and creativity in order to build on what he had been given. What then if the gift we have received is the “talent” to make money? Should we follow our inclination and use it to serve the community or bury it, for fear of being barred from the kingdom of heaven? To answer these questions we must look carefully at the positive role of the economy, of profit and of wealth in our societies. Healthy economic development has allowed humanity to evolve, allowing us to secure otherwise inconceivable achievements. However, profit should not be considered material alone, and the same applies to the wealth and well-being that derive from it. Only by enlarging its meaning can those who have the talent to create such results play an important social role and do good to themselves and others. Clearly, the process that produces such wealth must be virtuous and ethical and, above all, the entrepreneur must never forget the ultimate meaning of his actions, which is shared well-being and not a selfish “well-having”.

Giving and Receiving

If you think about it, the very essence of economic activity forces us to focus primarily on giving and then on receiving. One of the basic laws of the market states that returns follow, and do not anticipate, investments. Focussing on returns, i.e. on receiving, without first having planned an adequate investment, i.e. giving, means you betray the basic market principles and take a selfish and opportunist view that is not only wrong in moral terms but also uneconomical. It seems then that morality and economics have more than one point in common and that the “talent to make money” means knowing how to capitalize on your ability to first give something to someone who will then turn it into well-being and wealth for us. Hence, focussing on what you give and what customers and the company will receive when drawing up a business plan is the best and safest, as well as the most ethical, way to achieve good results!

successIt’s time for us to rehabilitate the role of wealth and success, by refusing to contrast these two terms with ethics and spirituality. Only by integrating them and enabling the rich and entrepreneurs with positive ideas to “enter the kingdom of heaven” can we hope to keep them alongside us in order to build a true economy of shared well-being. The alternative is to exclude them forever, condemning them out of hand, and in a sense, authorizing them to be selfish and immoral. It may not be easy, but faith and dedication will surely smoothen the path.

NOTE: Throughout our time as consultants, we have collected many stories of entrepreneurs and professionals who have been able to combine ethics and success. We have told some of these stories in this blog but there are certainly many more that would be worth telling. If you want to share them, write to us here

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Nightmare salespeople: mistakes when receiving customers

By Alberto Aleo and Alice Alessandri

fix_bad_impressionThis is the start of the series on Nightmare salespeople – it deals with mistakes all salespeople should avoid and is based on our own experiences, as well as tales from readers and friends.  In this first article, we want to discuss how you receive your customers. This is a crucial stage because we have clearly seen that if you get off on the right foot you are half way to building a good relationship. If, on the other hand, you commence badly for whichever of the reasons we will clarify later, it is almost impossible (or extremely difficult) to make up lost ground. We feel we are received badly both when we are ignored or snubbed (the receptionist doesn’t spare us a glance, the waiter appears deaf, sales staff are busy chatting and fail to greet us) and in any situation where we feel oppressed or forced to interact. You will have been through some of these experiences as customers, while as salespeople these examples will be helpful for you to take stock of your own errors and improve your ability to receive your customers.

Beware of the dogs

Not long ago, a friend of ours told us a story that sounds incredible, but which many others have subsequently confirmed. Around 2010, (when the car market in Italy was victim to the crisis) he went to a car dealer. On arrival at the semi-deserted showroom, he found the door locked. Although rather bewildered, he looked around and noticed an intercom. When he rang, the door opened and he was able to enter. On the other side, however, he was immediately approached by two Alsatians that looked decidedly scary. He carefully backed out and rang the intercom again to ask for help. The voice on the intercom sounded slightly annoyed, ‘Come in,’ it said ‘they don’t bite!’ This may be an extreme case, but how often have you found it tricky just to enter a building? Fancy doors that are difficult to open, entrances that are hidden away and obstacles of all kinds! Customers should be aided and encouraged to enter an environment that appears welcoming: the big international chain stores, for example, keep the doors of their shops wide open whatever the season.

Something to chew over

work-weight-gainA short time ago Alice needed to buy a clotheshorse and, wanting some extra advice, decided to go to a small hardware store where the vendor-customer relationship is generally more direct. On entering, she was greeted by the owner who was eating a ripe peach, with the foreseeable consequences of dirty hands, a sticky counter and difficulty of interaction. But in addition to greeting Alice with a full mouth, the owner laced her conversation with complaints and eye-rolling, commenting that ‘it’s not like working in the old days’, ‘customers ask such impossible questions’, ‘you can’t even eat a peach in peace’.  Alice was made to feel a nuisance and her impression was that she was “blamed” for belonging to a troublesome category: customers! We should never forget that:

The customer is not interrupting our work, but the reason we are working!

Early closing time

Given that we would shortly need to change our car, we decided to try a newly launched model. The radio was advertising a test drive for this new car, so we visited our local dealer. We arrived at 6 pm and waited while the salesman finished his phone conversation with a friend (chatting about football) before turning to us.  Without even getting up from his chair, he beckoned us to join him at his desk and brusquely asked, ‘What are you looking for?’ We were rather disconcerted by both his tone and the banality of the question, but answered ‘Well, a car! Actually, we would like to try that one out’. ‘Oh I’m sorry, but it’s nearly closing time’ he replied. We then pointed out that the showroom was not due to close for another hour, but the salesman was determined not to give us a test drive and offered no further explanation or any other options. Apart from this episode, that clearly shows a lack of willingness to either help or indeed work, what should you do when customers arrive as you are about to close? There are only two options: accept the situation with a smile and give them time to choose, or, with an extra dose of courtesy, invite them to return another time and politely specify your opening hours.

In the opening moments of your meeting, customers will form a first impression that will be very difficult to alter. The way you receive your customers, as also mentioned in the article dedicated to the Circle of Trust, serves precisely to overcome your customers’ scepticism and lay the foundations for a positive relationship.

NEON_Golia_Welcome_2005-2006-624x416
Think of your customer as a guest of honour who is slightly intimidated and rather insecure. Your task is toput them at their ease with delicacy and care. You will subtly make them feel that they are of central importance and that you are there to ensure your time spent together is enjoyable and useful.

If, as in the examples above, you see your potential customer as just another “annoyance” to be dealt with as swiftly as possible, now is the time to reconsider the way you receive your customers.  Have you come across any Nightmare Salespeople? Share your experience with us at aa@diariodiunconsulente.com

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The Sales Agents’ meeting

by Alberto Aleo

agents' meetingBefore I can talk you about how to handle a sales agents’ meeting, I want to say that I am, and always have been, a great fan of sales through agents. The reasons are simple and these points clarify why:

  • the quality of an offer is increasingly founded in the quality of the relationship, hence the relationship between people is now critical;
  • a widespread presence throughout the territory is necessary for all businesses, but especially for the more complex ones (i.e. linked to products or services with an important technical component or where the negotiation passes through several “phases”). It is only possible to effectively cover the area and ensure frequent contacts when there is a “resident” staff;
  • customers often prefer to talk to people who are aware of the context in which they operate and with whom they can establish regular cooperation.

That said, managing sales agents, especially if these are multi-firm, can be anything but easy. However, the difficulties most frequently encountered are generally of a “relational” and “motivational” kind, two areas in which a good sales manager will be amply provided with skills and well able to tackle.

The sales agents’ meeting

The sales agents’ meeting is a key moment in the management of sales agents and as such must be prepared with special care and attention. In my experience, you must hold at least one “plenary” meeting (with all the sales agents present) a year, possibly around December or at the very beginning of the sales year. A meeting at this time enables you to both analyse the results of the past year, and “launch” the challenges and sales targets for the year to come. In any case, the number of “plenary” meetings over the twelve-month period should not exceed three, leaving a sufficient time lapse between each (say 3 to 4 months). This way you will avoid the risk of overburdening the team with commitments and costs that are not directly related to sales activities (remember that the Sales Agents are primarily independent contractors who “sell” their time and their professionalism), as well as the risk of organising meetings that are devoid of novelty and interest.

The line-up of topics

I generally organize the sales agents’ meeting to follow the following agenda:

  • analysis of market trends and business;
  • novelties and innovations of the offer and/or the company;
  • promotions and marketing tools;
  • short and medium-term objectives;
  • the work plan for the following months;
  • group training sessions or motivational activities;
  • individual meetings.

self-esteemMy advice is to avoid talking about the results or the performance of individual agents in front of the whole group, to avoid arousing controversy or worse hurting anyone’s pride or impacting on any individual’s self-esteem; the same goes for the discussion of technical or administrative problems or any other issues relating to the area or to the customers of a single agent. Put off any such discussions to when you meet your sales agents individually so people have a chance to respond to any issues you may wish to raise.

Working as a team

Don’t forget to always include a time to share values and “build team spirit”, whether it’s just a dinner together or a more sophisticated team building activity is not important, what matters is that it is part of your schedule. To help when presenting the contents use visual aids (software like PowerPoint or KeyNotes are fine); leave those attending with written material of your slides (though you should hand this out at the end of the presentation, otherwise you risk your audience reading the information instead of paying attention to you). If you can, give out a small souvenir of the day spent together. Be careful also how you set out the room where the meeting with your sales agents will take place; read here for some useful tips.

dinner-game-2-1170x570

You will find soon that, if you can motivate your team well and establish a strong relationship based on respect and sharing with each member, this will not only yield the desired results but will ensure they protect and defend your choices, faithfully following you every time you decide a change of course.

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Nightmare salespeople: when sales are unethical

by Alice and Alberto Alessandri Aleo

Nightmare salespeopleSelling is no easy job: there’s a long apprenticeship, a variable salary and long days spent away from home. It’s perhaps not surprising then that occasionally a salesperson becomes hardened and starts to believe that to achieve the best results you must “beat” the customer. This old-fashioned approach to sales is destined to die out in a world in which, thanks also to digital culture, words such as reputation, transparency and reliability are regaining ground. However, it is worth analysing some of the practices implemented by these “nightmare salespeople” to remind ourselves just how sales relationships should play out. We will devote the coming months to gathering and commenting on some of the most striking cases, thanks also to your contributions from you: anyone wishing to contribute can do so by writing their negative experience here. To make it easier for you to identify the most common mistakes that nightmare salespeople make with their customers, here’s an analysis of the reasons which lead them to make such mistakes.

Effects vs Causes

Selling falls within the field of economic activities. Even when working for a company, salespeople are in fact entrepreneurs of themselves. Their earnings are calculated on achieving a goal and their job often means they must anticipate significant amounts of money. Like any good entrepreneur, they must therefore consider the people with whom they come into contact as an investment, not just a cost. In economics, as we know, “money machines” do not exist and, as we mentioned in the post Investments and Returns, returns follow investment – they do not precede it. Instead, we often find ourselves faced with salespeople who see the customer relationship only as a hurdle to overcome in order to get a result. Adopting this perspective, however, is to forget that the effects (commercial success) are always linked to the causes and in selling the only causes that will generate purchases are customer satisfaction, the relationship and the generation of value.

Expertise and skills

Method and ResponsibilityWhatever your opinion on selling, a good sale is never improvised. Salespeople are professionals who must possess a mix of expertise and skills. Having the gift of the gab will never be enough to convince a customer, salespeople must also know how to listen and be knowledgeable about what they are selling in order to give useful advice. Frequently though, customers find themselves faced with a hammed-up performance that fails to inspire confidence. At the other extreme are the super-technical sellers, who reel off data and comparisons with the competition, convinced that their interlocutors are interested and then going on to treat their customers as ignorant when they discover it is not so.

Method and Responsibility

Must an ethical salesperson be spontaneous and not manipulative? In some ways, the opposite is true:

Actually, if say you believe in spontaneity at all costs and do not want to manipulate anyone, you risk making a mistake.

In our view, spontaneity in sales is an abused concept that often conceals the absence of a real working method. The quality that an ethical seller must undoubtedly possess is sincerity, which is very different from spontaneity-improvisation. Having a method means following steps through a negotiation, which will allow us to offer a professional service to our customers, starting from the greeting and concluding with the parting, stages to which we devote particular attention in the book Sales Ethics. Consider, for example, what would happen if you entered a shop and “spontaneously” none of the staff greeted you: you would likely leave immediately. Moving on to the idea of manipulation, we ask you to consider it by starting from your personal relationships. Think of your parents, your children or your partner: are you certain that you’re not trying to get something from them or FOR them? It ‘s impossible to say no to this question, and anyone who insists on doing so is actually delegating, perhaps unconsciously, the responsibility of that relationship. Being aware of the goals we have with others, allows us to act with transparency and sincerity, by taking full responsibility for the outcome.

The good news is that having a goal in relationships does not necessarily mean plotting behind someone’s back or trying to con them, because what we want to achieve might well be in their interests.

A mother wants her children to be safe and healthy, just as any lover would like to be loved in return. Salespeople who cannot take responsibility for their relationship with the customer, guiding it toward a common goal, will sooner or later begin to blame others for their failures, coming out with phrases like ‘I am not the one who behaves badly, it’s the customers who force me into it’.

working methodAlberto remembers how as a child he went into a clothing store for children with his mother; above every shelf there was a notice saying “DO NOT TOUCH”. Not knowing yet how to read, he picked up a T-shirt and a member of the staff immediately told him off. He was naturally upset and complained, ‘How was I to know I couldn’t touch? The notice if only for people who can read’. The salesman flushed with anger and replied ‘I think you’re a bit young to be telling me how to run a shop!’ Insensitivity towards the customer, a poor reception and a purchase journey strewn with obstacles: a story that is quite typical of the many nightmare salespeople we’ll tell you about in the next post. By the way, are you an ethical seller or a nightmare salesperson? Take the test to find out!

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Our present is the gift

by Alice Alessandri and Alberto Aleo

our present is the giftThe end of 2016 is approaching and our attention is split between a glance backwards, to assess the past season, and plans for the year ahead, with 12 months brand new months awaiting. But what if rather than living suspended between past and future, we tried to live the present? What’s in the “here and now?” The answer is disarmingly simple: we are here, at this very moment, as we move from who we were to who we will be.

The present holds the key to our authentic evolution, but at times we seem to mislay this key.

So, over the festive season let’s give ourselves the gift of greater awareness of the present, made of gratitude, trust and other gifts that we will try to discover together.

Stuck in the past

stuck in the past

Just how many people are prisoners of the past? Such people are easy to recognize from their catchphrases: “If only I had…”, “I’ve always been like that …”, “If I could go back in time …”, “It was better when it was worse …”, “Better the devil you know…”. The past is the sum of the experiences we have been through and should serve to gather knowledge about ourselves and others, to check on our development, perfecting what has worked and learning from our mistakes. But all too often we hang on to values, beliefs and opinions that are no longer really ours, or to excuses that even we no longer find convincing, but to which we feel so strongly bound that we are almost forced to maintain them alive. Our advice?

Forgive yourself for any “mistakes” you may have made. Accept the lesson from the past and then move on, sure of the fact that you did everything you could.

We only act in the present; the past can provide data and information to avoid new errors and make the most of our experiences, but it never provides solutions.

The future yet to come

This was the slogan that launched the telephone company Blu on the Italian market some years ago, and in just a few months the company disappeared from the scene. The future is a wonderful thing; it fills our minds with dreams and hopes, but … it does not actually exist, it’s an illusion and if we linger there too long it will distract us from the only really important time to act: now!

If we focus too much of our energy on what could or might be, we risk losing the wealth of opportunities that the present can offer.

live the momentDreaming  and imagining the future is very like undertaking a journey by looking at pictures taken from the Internet: they may seem exciting but you are missing the sounds, colours and scents you would experience by living the moment. Anticipating and planning your future too carefully removes the flavour of life, distracting you from signals, coincidences and those impromptu moments that conceal precious lessons and magical encounters. So do not sacrifice today for a reward that you may receive at some distant time in the future, because in doing so you risk wasting your life, as well as the passion and energy you need to achieve concrete results.

Dedicated to the present

Although past and future are not real, they wield power inside our heads and guide our internal dialogue, the flurry of thoughts that distract us from the “here and now”. How can we fully live in the present? We have to “get out of our head” and exploit our senses. For example, in the workplace make the effort to observe your customers and colleagues as though you were seeing them for the first time; pay attention to the environment in which you live and be amazed by the sounds that have always surrounded you but were experienced as mere background noise. During meals with your family actually smell the food before you taste it and then enjoy the flavour and texture as if you were discovering the ancient traditions of an unknown culture: your own.

Take a fresh look out of the window of your home, with the curiosity and wonder of a child, observe the view offered at this point of your journey with gratitude and trust.

alice-nuovaIn the course of 2017 let’s try to learn something new about ourselves by getting out of the “comfy chair” that is handy for dwelling on the past or daydreaming about the future, but useless if we are hoping to find the brilliant idea that will change our lives for the better. Rather we should start laying the groundwork for that idea, using the present for “doing”, perhaps firstly making mistakes, but then correcting our course.

To wish you a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year, we will take a beautiful saying from the film Kung Fu Panda when the Master Oogway explains to his pupil Po:

“yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift”

That is why it is called the present.”  We wish that you may also live the present intensely, like a gift to yourself and to others. For our part, we sincerely thank you for being part of our 2016, for staying with us through 2017 but above all for taking time once again to focus on the here and now by reading the last article of the year: the blog Diario di un Consulente is going on vacation, so we’ll see you on January 9 with the first article of the new season. In the meantime, should you wish to do so, you can continue following us on our Facebook page.

 

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Optimism as a strategy: exploring Italy’s confines

by Alice Alessandri & Alberto Aleo

optimismSince we’ve been back in Italy, many people have asked us what the greatest difference is between our society and that of the US. What we were most struck by was rather unexpected, especially for the Italians who are always associated with an idea of quality of life and happiness: Italians have lost their optimism! Let’s figure out how this could have happened.

Media terrorism

Every time you open the newspaper all you get is bad news, mostly when you go into a shop you’re surrounded by long faces, if you scroll through your social network it is filled with complaints and alarmist headlines. You see few people smiling in the street, very little enthusiasm and, above all, less of a will to get things done. Yet Italy still has very much to offer, you can enjoy a quality lifestyle in our cities and we are surrounded by artistic and natural wonders that the whole world envies us, so why is nobody talking about that?

Why do we focus our efforts and our intelligence on exploring and analysing what is not working, rather than enhancing what we have?

media terrorismPsychologists would say that typically when people are depressed they tend not to notice the beautiful and good things that happen in life. It follows that if I am too busy staring at the ground I will fail to notice that the sky is blue and the sun is shining. The fact that many overlook the positive aspects around them does not mean, however, that Italy’s good elements no longer exist. In fact, optimism brings with it a weighty responsibility, similar to that deriving from recognizing your own talents, for example, rather than complaining about your shortcomings.

Accepting responsability

Some argue that a pessimist is just a “well-informed optimist”. As explained previously in our article “I think positive”, our vision is different and we believe that the idea that pessimism = realism should be dispelled.

Pessimists are often people who have decided not to take responsibility for their life or their social role, taking refuge behind a comfortable “there is nothing we can do”. 

But how did a people as creative, curious and fun-loving as the Italians finish up being victims to mass depression? We think that behind all this there lies the old strategy of using fear to control people: “we are going through a crisis, settle for less”, “be careful, play defensively”, “watch out for people who get results, they’re probably dishonest”.

Pessimism is a control strategy, optimism is a strategy for success because it allows you to see what works and to take responsibility for instigating change. 

Optimism as a strategy

If it is true, as the philosopher H. Bergson said that  “the eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” then Italy needs optimism enough to make the most of the good elements that still exist.

italian optimismMaybe that’s why many of our compatriots who move away from Italy and find themselves  in societies that tend towards optimism,  rediscover the energy and skills that set Italians apart and allow us to make a difference, thereby creating new opportunitiesz. Besides, a people who from the time of the ancient Romans onwards, has been able both geographically and culturally to conquer the world, certainly cannot expect to overcome the crisis currently gripping our society by  withdrawing into itself.

As highlighted by our history, Italians express the best of themselves when they interact with others; they overcome their limitations and regain momentum when the set off to explore and travel. That’s why we should see the “brain drain” not as a threat but as an opportunity, by expanding our idea of what it means to be Italian beyond the confines of this peninsular and realizing that Italianicity is not linked to a geographical location but a culture, a system of values and a way of thinking about life of which optimism is an integral part.

If there is a boundary inside which we should contain our best brains it is this: to remain optimistic and aware of their own values and talents, with all the responsibilities that this entails.

PS: As you may have noticed, for some time we have chosen to publish our posts on Monday: the first day of the week, the day when we return to work, our inbox is overflowing with e-mails and our diaries are full of engagements, and so it’s more difficult to find the time to read. We consciously made this decision, despite the statistics against us, as we strongly wish to help our readers approach the week with a more positive outlook; that’s our contribution to defending optimism!

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How to choose sales training courses

By Alice Alessandri & Alberto Aleo

choose sales training courses

In a world packed with sales training courses, some advice may be useful on how to choose the right one, the course that will best suit your particular needs. In Passodue we provide sales training courses to companies and professionals based on the method of Sales Ethics, focusing on the centrality of the human actors and on the exchange of value and on trust. Regardless of our specific offer, we dedicate this article to all those who wish to make the right choice when looking for a sales course. How can you choose wisely when faced with generous promises, the latest gurus and ground-shaking slogans?

The origins of sales

Many of the techniques for communication and negotiation that the different sales training courses have in common, are based on a discipline called NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) developed in California in the ’70s by a psychologist and a linguist, respectively Bandler and Grinder. NLP is an approach to communications used not only by sellers but also by life coaches and motivators. The latter are concerned with an individual’s empowerment while salespeople are obviously interested in selling; there is a substantial difference and hence, before between different sales training courses, you should check to which category the trainer you plan to contact belongs.

If you are interested in sales techniques make sure that anyone teaching the course has specific expertise, for example, that they have worked in sales within a company and are therefore able to give you concrete advice that can be put into practice in your profession.

The instruction manual

trappola

Our work has given us the opportunity to meet many successful people. What we have discovered from meeting such people is the certainty that there is no magic formula to achieve results and well-being.

We each have different talents, passions and skills that require a customized approach if they are to be fully exploited.

You have to be aware that there are no shortcuts to reach the finish line successfully. Instead, you will need to engage and work hard. So beware of those who offer magic formulas and swift results. A myth that needs to be debunked is the mechanistic vision of success: “if it worked for him, then it will work for me”. Markets differ and situations change over time, meaning that what worked “there, yesterday” will not work “here, today”. Moreover, when people tell the story of their success they often omit the difficult moments and the mistakes along the way because these would make the story less appealing, and frequently our memory deletes the unpleasant bits. Look for sales training courses that will enhance your unique skills and abilities, not one based on an imaginary “perfect salesperson”.

Avoid the traps

There are some warning signs that should encourage you to check out the institution or the professional trainer with whom you are considering doing sales training courses. When you come across someone who promises “guaranteed results immediately” you should try to understand the foundations for such a promise:

Guaranteeing results is in fact a very effective marketing technique to attract customers, but rarely will your sales performance improve to the extent promised once the sales course is over.

For sure, you have seen adverts on social networks or received mails saying, “Do you want to make €10,000 from home? Click here!” and on the next page you have to give the number of your credit card. Some people sell sales training courses using this priming technique, capturing your interest  with questions that you can only answer by purchasing another sales course at a very high price.

Watch out for those who make promises they cannot keep or continually shift the finishing line so you must carry on paying to receive the answers you need.

More generally when selecting sales training courses, analyze carefully the communication style of those offering it to check that it reflects your own thinking and your values.

sales training courses

At Passodue we are convinced that selling is not a form of magic, but a profession where motivation is not enough to achieve thrilling results: it takes commitment, skills and competence.

Real success is built over time, indeed there is a directly proportional relationship between the time that it takes to achieve success and the length it lasts.

Using the internet metaphor once again, if you buy “likes” for your site or your video you will likely achieve a seemingly striking impact in a short time, and just as quickly your results will fade and you will disappear from the scene.

Selling today has changed, and in the most advanced markets it has ceased to be an activity dominated by aggressive and unscrupulous professionals. When you are in the classroom with your fellow students look around; if you see you are in the midst of people who believe in values such as ethics, trust, respect, transparency and respect , then you can be sure you are in the right place.

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