Thursday, September 6, 2007


When was the last time you had one of those "light bulb" moments? You know, like a cartoon character that suddenly gets a brilliant idea and a light bulb appears over his head. Or like the famous legend about the ancient Greek Archimedes.

He'd been asked by the king to find out whether his crown was pure gold without destroying it. Getting ready to step into his bath, as Archimedes put his foot in the water, he noticed how the water rose as his foot went in. That's when insight struck. He saw that all he had to do was submerge the crown in water to determine its density.

He got so excited that he shouted "Eureka!" – which means "I have found it!" --and ran out into the street, forgetting he wasn't wearing his toga. Well, ever since then, people have noticed these special moments when insight suddenly strikes. The challenge lies in knowing why these moments happen and what can be done to encourage them.

From scientific research on the brain, it seems that our usual logical thinking approach is handled by the left side of the brain. But those sudden insights appear to come from the right side of the brain. And when those aha moments come, your brain does literally "light up" – there is a burst of high-frequency brain waves. It seems that the right temporal lobe of the brain is used for drawing together distantly related information, so when it all comes together, it's like all the pieces of a puzzle suddenly falling into place, and you've got your "light bulb" moment.

So how can you encourage these sparks of insight? The most important thing seems to be not to think about it! Using the left-brain logic sometimes just doesn't help us solve problems. You can literally "think" too much. Instead, try doing something else, put your attention elsewhere. Take a walk, talk to a friend, do a chore. Maybe even take a bath, like Archimedes. Just be sure to put on your "toga" when insight strikes!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What’s the Purpose of this Call?

How many calls does it take for your reps to close a sale? Most reps will tell you “it depends” – on the market, the individual customer, the competition, and any other number of variables. But that’s the wrong answer. If your reps don’t know exactly how many calls it should take them to close a sale, and what the objective of each of those calls is, they’re just fumbling their way through the sale.

“The critical understanding that underlies all your selling efforts is that selling is not hanging around being nice to people in some random fashion. If you don’t establish a sales strategy and CAO (Customer Action Objective) for each of your sales calls, you will be wasting your time,” warns Ferdinand Fournies, business consultant to companies such as Merck, HP, and 3M, and author of Why Customers Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do … And What To Do About It (McGraw-Hill, 2007).

Consider this example. Fournies was recently speaking at a national meeting to salespeople whose product was a $25,000 chemical analysis machine sold to hospitals. He asked his audience how many calls it took to sell their product to a hospital and most people responded, “11 or 12 months.” Okay, replied Fournies, but how many calls? As a group, the reps argued that “it depends” because all hospitals are different. That’s when the company’s highest performing rep raised his hand and said, “Mr. Fournies, if I don’t sell the product by the third call, I don’t go back.” The room fell silent as this rep explained his strategy.

On his first call, he said he qualifies the customer. He finds out whether the customer needs the product and can afford it and who would make the buying decision. If the answers are positive, the rep schedules a second appointment. During that second meeting, he demonstrates the equipment to the buyer and all the users and gets them to make the buying decision. On the third call, he picks up the purchase order.

The key to this rep’s success, explains Fournies, is that he has specific, measurable customer action objectives for each sales call: On call number one, “the customer will describe to me the company’s diagnostic needs, identify the decision maker for equipment purchases, indicate the current budget status, and give me an appointment to demonstrate my equipment.” He outlines similar, customer-oriented objectives for calls number two and three. When Fournies asked other reps about their objectives for their first call, the answers were vague, varied, and focused on what actions they, the reps, would be taking – not the actions they wanted customers to take. Their goals included things like: establish a relationship, show them the product, get a foot in the door, sell one unit, and so on.

To create a multiple-call selling strategy, work backward from the objective of your last call, asking yourself, “Why can’t we go over there and do that now?” You’ll find out specifically what actions the customer must take on each sales call to advance the sale. And you’ll be able to determine the minimum number of sales calls you need to close the sale.

Once you do this exercise, challenge your reps to close sales in the minimum number of calls.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Feeling Down? Volunteer!

I'm sure you're familiar with the old saying that "it is better to give than to receive." This sounds good, but it actually turns out to be true. By giving – of your time, help, or money – you can improve your own happiness level and even your health. As a matter of fact, giving can be even better for the giver than the receiver.

I found this out reading an article about Dr. Stephen Post, who heads the Institute of Research on Unlimited Love at Case Western Reserve University. There he sponsors scientific studies on how doing good for others can help people lead healthier, happier, and even longer lives. But his interest in the subject started when he was a young boy growing up in Long Island, New York.

Whenever he would get restless or feel down in the dumps, his mother would say, "Well, Stevie, why don't you go out and help somebody?" So he would look around for something to do for someone, like helping a neighbor with a yard chore. And he discovered that helping others really did make him feel better and was rewarding. And that childhood lesson led him to his adult vocation.

Since then, many studies have shown the physical and emotional benefits of giving. There's even a kind of "helper's high" that shows up on MRI brain scans when people donate their time or help to others. In one case, when former heart patients were asked to visit current patients, just to listen and be supportive, those former patients had better health afterwards.

Another study found that seniors who gave their time to various causes tended to live longer. And a study done with high school students who were in a "service learning" program, where they were required to volunteer, showed their grades and moods actually improved.

So, why not give a little – and you'll get a lot!