What didn’t you like about 2011?…

What didn’t you like about 2011

At this time of year, you might be thinking about the things you want to change about either yourself or your business in 2012. It is wonderfully positive to create an image of what you want to happen and to work towards that – growing your business, expanding into new territories, increasing sales etc.

However, before knowing what you want to change for the better in the new year ahead, you sometimes first have to look back at the year you’ve just had.

This is what to do – make a list of all the things you DIDN’T like about your business in 2011 – for instance, being dependent on just one customer for your income, or spending too much time with customers who didn’t contribute significantly to your bottom-line.

Once you have a list, you now have your action-points for 2012 – for example, if being dependent on just one large customer worried you in 2011, then your action-point for the new year is to find more customers of that size.

So, if you are struggling to think about how you want to change your business for the better in 2012, start with what you didn’t like about your business in 2011 – you’ll find your action points come much more easily.

Good luck and great success for 2012…


A tale of Christmas hope…

Be a helper, not a seller

I know I seem to spend all my time telling you about what is wrong in the world of sales and service. Yet I would like to leave you with a tale of Christmas hope – someone who bends over backwards for her customers and genuinely puts them at the centre of her business.

This is my printing supplier, who I met this morning to brief her on some leaflets for a client of mine. We met in a local café, had a coffee and chatted a while about business and the year ahead. As usual, I did most of the listening and I just let her tell me all about her plans for 2012. She told me about her plans to invest in a new venture, and how excited she was about it. As this new venture was away from her core activity of being a print supplier, I asked what she would do if this new opportunity really took off.

To this question, she looked at me very intently, and said: “I would never give up print, because I just love selling.”

I can honestly say this is the first time in 2011 I’ve heard someone say that to me, and it has taken to the dying days of the year to hear it. And you know what? I truly believed her. However, it’s not selling she loves.

Because every time I have met her she has always been bubbling with enthusiasm about her service, and been genuinely interested in hearing about what I do for my clients. In addition, she is always looking at other ways she can help, with no financial gain to herself.

In short, she is always looking at how she can help.

I pointed this out to her, and she agreed. “Yes, you’re right. I never feel like I’m selling, because I see it as I’m helping my customers.”

Perfect. Absolutely perfect. And that is exactly how – as a customer – I feel when I deal with her. That she is genuinely more concerned in helping me get what I want, and never just viewing me as another sale.

I asked her what she was doing over Christmas, and she told me she would probably still be delivering to customers right up until Christmas Eve tea-time, so she hadn’t even thought about Christmas yet. I wasn’t surprised. With that, I watched her disappear down the street to another appointment.

So this post is for you helpers (not sellers) out there who deliver a great service for their customers – you deserve a great Christmas and a very successful New Year.

5 Top Cold-Calling Tips…


Most people I meet in business avoid cold calling because they feel it doesn’t work for them, and they feel uncomfortable doing it.

As every tele-marketing company will tell you, there can be a place for cold-calling in every sales strategy, and the following tips will help you make the most of your calls.

1. Pick up the phone, because it won’t pick up itself!

The first thing you have to do is set yourself a target of how many calls you are going to make. For instance, if you’ve set yourself a target of 10 calls in a morning, then make sure you actually speak to 10 people. Leaving voice-mail messages doesn’t count! Only finish your cold-calling session once you’ve hit your target.

2. Get the gate-keepers on your side

It’s unlikely you will get straight through to your intended target, therefore you will have to get used to speaking to gate-keepers. The job of a gate-keeper is to keep you out of the corporate ivory tower, with stock phrases like “we have a no-names policy” or “we don’t take sales calls”.
More often than not, this isn’t actually the company policy but something the gate-keeper has decided to take upon themselves. So it is imperative you get the gate-keeper on your side, because they can become your greatest ally in getting through to your target. You can do this by getting their name, and using their name when you chat with them.

Without being patronising, you need to pander to their ego and ask them for their assistance. An easy way to do this is to simply ask: “I wonder if you can help me? If you were in my position how would you best go about arranging a short chat with Mr X?”

3. Call early and call late

If you want to give yourself the best chance of avoiding gate-keepers, then make your call when they are least likely to be there. For instance, if you make your calls outside normal working hours (before 9 and after 5) you have a better chance of the MD picking up the phone. So be prepared to get straight through to the person you want to talk to!

4. The only thing you’re selling is the appointment to have a chat

Many cold-callers make the mistake of trying to cram as many features of their product into the call as they can – for the person taking the call it can feel like their being drowned in a tidal-wave of information! Therefore make sure you strip your pitch down to the one key benefit most likely to interest your target, and then concentrate on getting the appointment to have a further chat about how you can help the target.
Ask questions like: “When is the best time for you to meet – early in the week or later?”
By doing this, the target will feel they are still in control of choosing the appointment slot.

5. Develop your “no script” voice

The biggest problem faced with cold-callers is that they often sound like they are reading from a script – that is because they are! So don’t write out a script, just jot down a few key bullet-points to remind you what you want to say. This will mean you will sound much more natural, and your customer will get a far greater sense of what you are about by how you are saying it, not what you are saying.


What are you going to do differently in 2012?…

Maybe it’s me but I feel like I’ve been drinking out of the festive red take-away cups from Starbucks for months, yet we’re still a few days short of Christmas. Every year I feel that the build-up to the big day is longer and longer. Yet this time, working with many small businesses as I do, I get a real sense of sobriety to the proceedings, and much less of the cavalier attitude towards spending that we all took a few years back.  Even the larger companies that some friends of mine work for are keeping their collective heads down this time round.

That said, as I write this in my local Starbucks and watch every table crowded with shoppers and their many parcels waiting to be wrapped, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and to think everything really will be ok, even if just on Christmas Day. And maybe it will, but then what?

Looking in my diary, I find I’m drawn to Tuesday 3rd January and I’m wondering what will be different about that day in that week. Just another Tuesday in mid-winter. It might be bright and sunny, or it might be dark and wet, maybe even snowy. If you’re in Scotland you’re still on holiday.

But what’s going to make it different to any other Tuesday? Only you can decide that.

I’m not going to go on about New Year resolutions, because many of those fall at the first hurdle. But without doubt, the festive break does give us all time to reflect on the year that has passed, on the decisions we’ve made (good and not so good!) and to recharge our batteries.

Personally, I try to read a business development book to help me focus on the new year ahead.

It is also an ideal time to decide what are you going to do differently in 2012?

We all know that doing the same things produces the same results, so doing more of the same in 2012 will result in…yep, you guessed it, just the same.

What do you want to change about your business in 2012? Do you want to expand? Do you want to be more profitable? Do you want to increase your sales? Whatever it is you want to do, don’t just think about it, write it down and pin it on your notice-board. Make sure it is somewhere you can see it every day, especially on Tuesday 3rd January!

Once you have decided what you want to change about your business in 2012, the next step is about making it happen.

If you don’t know how to make it happen, then it won’t! So do whatever you have to do to give yourself the tools to make the change. If it’s a book, then read the book. If it’s specialist advice, then get the advice.

Last Christmas, one of the things I pinned to my notice board was that I wanted to write a book in 2011…and I did. But I didn’t have a clue how to structure it, or how to word it. I just knew I wanted to write a book that would help people who hate selling.

This year I want to write another one. This time about helping people who have to make sales presentations.

The key here is making sure you know what you want to do differently in 2012 – because if you don’t know, nothing will change on Tuesday 3rd January!

If you want me to give you some feedback on your ideas drop me a line (dt@zerosellsale.com) and I’ll get back to you before the New Year.

Don’t wait for the Gilt-edged YES (because it might never happen!)

I am sure you know what buying-signals are. They are vitally important to us all when we’re trying to secure new sales.

These are the things that are supposed to tell us that our customers are ready to buy from us.

Therefore, wouldn’t it be brilliant if they just simply came with big bells ringing and neon lights flashing all around them? Just in case we miss them. Like I did the other week!

The thing with buying-signals is that they hardly EVER come wrapped with a gilt-edged ribbon saying YES, I WANT TO BUY on them. I mean, think about the last time you had a meeting with a customer and they said to you YES I WANT TO BUY WHAT YOU ARE SELLING, AND I WANT TO BUY IT NOW!

I can honestly say, I can’t remember (if ever) it happening to me. Yet I constantly find myself in meetings waiting for just that to happen. Well, something near to it, at least. How stupid am I?

Let me tell you exactly how stupid I am. Let me tell you about a meeting I had only a few days ago where I quite happily sat there, waiting for the gilt-edged YES (which obviously never happened!) when there were buying-signals all around me, smacking me in the face!

I was having a meeting with a software designer who I liked very much and thought he had a great product proposition. We had a coffee and discussed the biggest issues getting in the way of him selling more of his software solutions.

After discussion, he agreed he wasn’t as clear on who his target audience was as he thought he was, and could do with some help with that. Let me just run that past you again in case you missed it – he wasn’t sure of his target audience and could do with some help with that! Did you see that buying-signal? Of course you did – UNLIKE ME!

Ok, our chat continued. Another issue was that his web-site and literature focussed more on his services (the bit our customers don’t really care about) and nowhere nearly enough on the results he delivers (the bit our customers DO really care about) and he said he could do with some help with getting his messages right. Did you get that one? No problem! Me? Nope.

So far, I had missed 2 great big buying-signals. Surely I wasn’t going to be presented with another one that I would miss? Oh, yes I was.

He went on to tell me how he struggled at networking events, because he wasn’t sure about the right things to say, and that he could do with some help with that.

Now, you might be thinking I must have been sat there with ear-muffs on, given my lack of hearing. But to defend myself just a little, these buying-signals were surrounded by lots of other information and those 3 signs were picked out of an hour’s worth of chat.

The one thing I didn’t miss though was that at no time in our discussion did he say I WANT TO BUY YOUR SERVICES. What he did say was that he needed help. It might not have been quite as obvious as I have described (honestly) yet he wanted help with the issues he was facing.

Luckily for me, I salvaged the meeting at the last minute and told him I COULD HELP HIM with the issues he was facing. And he replied by asking me to send him details of how I could help.

So, the moral of this story? Don’t wait for a gilt-edged YES when you are meeting your customers, because that actual word might never get said. What will be there, however, are buying-signals (even if they are well-hidden) and it is them that you can close your sale around.

T’was the week before Christmas…

…and there was shopping to do and the wrapping of the presents to start. And then there were cards to write and send. The list was endless, just like every year.

And every year it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the business year finishes 2 weeks earlier than it needs to do, which can have a negative effect on your start to the New Year.

I remember when I was a manager of a team of sales representatives, this time of year they always struggled to have any client appointments in their diaries, therefore they had nothing to do. I used to empathise with them, but couldn’t quite understand why they were struggling so much to get anyone to see them.

Therefore, I sat down with one of my team and asked him why he thought his diary was empty.

“Well, it’s obvious, boss. People are too busy to see us with it being so close to Christmas.”

I nodded. “Is that what they are telling you?”

“That’s right.”

As his manager, it was only right that I should try and help him, so I rang up some clients.

Amazingly, I managed to get 2 appointments from 3 calls.

He was amazed, also. “How did you do that?”

“I never mentioned Christmas.”

It was as simple as that. If you think your client won’t want to see you because it’s getting near Christmas, then the chances are you’ll find yourself saying exactly that when you call them.

For example, “I know it’s getting near Christmas, but I wondered if you are free…”

So, don’t mention Christmas. I’ve just managed to arrange a couple of meetings for the end of next week. All I talked about was business and dates in a diary, and I never mentioned the fact that it was only 2 days before Christmas!

Just imagine if you could arrange 2 more business meetings than you usually would at this time of the year, what positive effect would that have moving into January?

Also (unless you are on holiday) don’t forget the working days between Christmas and the New Year.

Quite often, if people are working on those days they aren’t doing too much so they are often grateful of an excuse to see you for a chat.

Get them appointments in the diary, and give yourself a great chance of a great start to the New Year.

Keep your problems behind the scenes…

The other day I arranged to meet a former colleague of mine in a little café that I always enjoy going in. It has a lovely, friendly vibe which it mixes well with a rustic coolness. Also, it always manages to play some killer tunes which I find wishing I had on my iPod.

I’m guessing you’re getting the picture that I like this place – I hope so, because I really do. So much so that I felt pretty gutted when I witnessed them, first hand, take a gun, load the bullet, pull back the trigger and shoot themselves squarely in the foot!

I had sat down with my coffee and was watching with interest as a customer went to the counter to order some food.

I didn’t catch what she ordered, but I did hear her ask how long the food would be.

The girl behind the counter shouted into the kitchen, and a few moments later, the owner (who I shall call Bob for the sake of this) popped his head round the corner.

He was armed with a spatula in one hand and an egg in the other, and was wearing a very harassed look on his face. He stared at the customer and said: “We’re very busy. It will be at least 20 minutes.”

Now, if those words weren’t bad enough, he accompanied them with a big sigh, a shrug of the shoulders, and a rolling of the eyes that suggested what a stupid question!

 To top it off, he then looked at me, looked at the offending customer and shook his head before disappearing back into the kitchen.

This amazing scene, ripped straight from the pages of How Not to Treat Your Customers, was then finished off by the poor customer shuffling her feet and mumbling an apology.

Yes, you heard me right. The customer, after asking what I thought was a reasonable question, was left feeling like she had to say sorry for asking!


In just one instance, my opinion of Bob and his business crashed. I accept Bob was probably having a bad day and was most likely short-staffed, but here’s the thing – THAT’S NOT THE CUSTOMER’S FAULT!

In business, whatever is going on behind the scenes is exactly where it should stay. Customers quite rightly don’t care about you, only the results you deliver. Don’t do a Bob and shove your bad day in the face of your customers, because you’ll only do it once…

This tip fits in quite nicely with not buying a ticket for the Blame Train (a previous post) but is another example of how your hard work can be undone so easily and quickly if you’re not careful.


Don’t let your sales presentations get lost in translation…


A good friend of mine recently had the need to visit a solicitor for some advice on a legal matter. The meeting lasted 30 minutes and afterwards she called in at my house for a coffee.

 When I asked her how the meeting with the solicitor had gone, she gave me a slightly bemused, quizzical look.

“I’m not sure,” she said.

Now it was my turn to be puzzled. “Why is that?” I asked.

“Well, to be honest, I didn’t understand a word she said to me.”

Now, let me make something clear here – my friend is not uneducated or stupid by any stretch of the imagination. Yet that was exactly how she was made to feel by the end of her meeting.

When I asked her more about the meeting it became obvious there had been one recurring theme throughout their chat – the solicitor had been talking mainly in legal terms and not in a language easily understood by an everyday person.

My friend works in the medical profession and I’m sure she uses terminology and jargon that would be second-nature to a surgeon but would also be just as mystifying as legal-talk to an everyday person like me.

And that is the point – it is very easy for all of us to fall into the trap of talking in a language that makes perfect sense to us in our own particular professions…but not so to our potential customers.

The very last thing any of us want to do is to make our customers feel stupid when we are delivering our sales pitches to them. Because a customer who feels stupid will rarely want to make themselves feel even more stupid by telling you they don’t understand what you are saying to them.

Also, a customer who you have made to feel stupid will never buy from you. The point in case being my friend. I asked her if she would go back to see that particular solicitor and she said she probably wouldn’t – because she didn’t want to feel stupid again!

I had a similar situation the other day when I was at a business networking meeting and sat next to a guy and started chatting.

When he asked me what I did for a living I said what I always say: “I help people who hate selling increase their sales.”

I then asked him the same question and he answered: “I aid in the effective communication of value propositions.”

It sounded very impressive but I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant, so I asked: “How do you do that?”

Same question I guess, just asked from a different angle – but it got broadly the same answer! Lots of talk about how businesses don’t communicate their value propositions effectively enough, and how he helps businesses do that more successfully.

Again, it all sounded very impressive – but there was absolutely no attempt to either explain what a value proposition was, or to establish if I knew what one was.

Now depending on understanding, a value proposition is the positioning of value, where value equals the benefit to the clients less cost and risk (I think!) yet I’m sure that could be explained much more simply. In other words, explained in such a way that an everyday person would understand.

I was left feeling not impressed by his knowledge, but feeling a little bit confused and ever so slightly stupid for not fully understanding what he was talking about. I was also left thinking that I would never recommend his services to anyone because I wasn’t sure what they were!

So here’s a tip – road-test your sales pitch to someone not from your profession and ask them if they fully understand the benefits of your service. If they do, then that’s brilliant.

However, if they are a little confused, or need to ask more than a couple of questions to clarify your offering, then look at re-wording your pitch so that it can be easily understood by your customers – after all if they don’t get how you can help them, they won’t buy from you!


First reviews about the book that was written to help you…


This isn’t directly a tip that will help you increase your sales. In fact, it’s not really a full blog (so you don’t have to read it if you don’t have the time or inclination)

However, I thought I would share with you the first couple of reviews I’ve received for the Zero Sell Sale book that was released on Amazon last week. 

Finished your book – it’s brilliant! An easy, straight to the point writing style, and I love the practical things to go away and do so I can focus on one area at a time, without feeling overwhelmed or a disaster sales zone, quite the reverse, I found myself thinking “I could do that”! 7th Dec 2011

Brilliant Business Book! (5 stars on Amazon) - This is an easy to read succinct business book that takes a common sense approach to how to win business without the ‘traditional’ sales approach. 6th Dec 2011

I don’t take praise easily (although I am very proud of these comments) however the point of this post is to let you know that I put the book together to help you – because the reviews were from people who run their own businesses and are very good at what they do, but they don’t have “Sales Rep” on their business cards! And they are exactly the people I wrote the book for.

If you have to try and win new clients to keep your business thriving, but don’t consider yourself a salesperson, then this site and the book will definitely help you increase your sales.



Are you happy that your brand is being authentic?…


Here are some questions for you – do you truly believe in what you say when you are talking to your customers? Are the words that come out of your mouth really yours, or are they what you think you should say? Does your website and literature really reflect who you are?

In the commercial world we all operate in, it is increasingly important we are, above most other things, authentic. Now there’s a word – authenticity.  It means to be genuine and real.  This is something that is crucial when trying to persuade customers to buy from you and not your competition.

At a networking event I recently attended, we all had the opportunity to spend a few seconds telling everyone else about our particular businesses. When it was his turn, one gentleman stood up and said: “I help individuals embrace a healthier approach to life, both mentally and nutritionally.”

Bold words you might think. But they were delivered by a man who was obviously over-weight and had just tucked into a full fried breakfast. Even the way he spoke the words was quite down-cast and uninspiring. Unfortunately for him, I just wasn’t convinced he could deliver the service he was offering. In fact, I wasn’t even sure he believed he could deliver the service, either. Put bluntly, he wasn’t being authentic.

Later, I checked out his website and the designers had obviously done a great job – it was striking and vibrant, with powerful colours and positive copy and visuals. Sadly, it was everything he wasn’t in person.

He just didn’t live up to the image created by his website. And this got me thinking about my own website (www.zerosellsale.com) which you are on now (or seeing via a blog email) and the cover to my recent book. What did it say about me?

As a person, I am quite straight-talking and clear when I give advice to my clients. In addition, I am well over six-foot with a shaved head and a goatee beard – therefore I don’t often fade into the back-ground. 

These are characteristics about me that are indisputable, and ones that are obvious when I attend various networking events. Therefore, it seemed only logical to me to reflect these characteristics in my business brand. My book cover contains a full-length photograph of me next to the title written in clear, bold letters – as you would imagine, it clearly says what the book does. In addition, I feel my web-site is an extension of these characteristics.

Therefore, I genuinely believe my brand is authentic. I would happily discuss whether the brand could be more aesthetically pleasing, because I’m sure it could be. But the one thing that is without doubt is that my brand is definitely an accurate reflection of me.

So, if you are in business, have a look at your own brand. Is your website and literature saying the right things about you and your service? Are you a fair reflection of what you say when you meet your customers. If it is, then brilliant, you are being genuinely authentic. If it isn’t, though…

I’m sure you’ll find it an interesting exercise.

Thanks for reading, Damian