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Four Tips for a Successful Sales Meeting

by Leigh Geraghty

If you ever have to sell a product or service to internal or external prospects, you will find yourself at sales meetings or having to give presentations. I’ve learned that to be successful at selling, you need to “shut up and listen.” An effective sales meeting or presentation should be a dialogue or conversation, and in the spirit of dialogue, you should talk less than half of the time. You need to get your prospects talking, listen to what they have to say, and then respond in a way that shows you were listening.

Here are four strategies that have served me well in my career selling to both internal and external prospects:

1. Ask questions

Prepare key questions in advance. Salespeople often launch into a presentation without making sure they understand what their prospect cares about. Instead, open by asking questions to learn about your prospect and their needs. For example:

  • What happened that led to this situation?
  • What specific examples can you share that demonstrate your concerns?
  • What must we consider in the solution we provide?

Then, continue to ask questions throughout your presentation to confirm your assumptions, check for understanding and assess how your prospect feels about your product or service.

2. Pause frequently

Encourage your prospect to ask questions throughout. Their questions will tell you a lot about their interests.

Welcome interruptions. Pay attention to your prospect’s body language. If they appear to have something to say, pause and give them a chance to speak.

3. Listen more than you talk

Pay attention to what your prospect is saying, and jot down key words and phrases. Incorporate their language. Tailor your talk to focus on their needs, concerns and interests. For example, talk about how your product or service will solve their specific challenges.

By listening more than talking, you will follow the 80-20 rule and ensure that 20% of your presentation is about you, and 80% is about your prospect, their situation and their needs.

4. Keep it brief and focused

Don’t ramble. Deliver each key point briefly and succinctly. Then give your prospect a chance to comment and ask questions. Respond to questions and check for understanding. Once you are confident that they understand a point, move on.

Become comfortable listening more and speaking less, and you’ll feel more confident that you are proposing the best solutions. Your prospects will reward you with more trust, more sales and greater success.

Still Using Paper Evaluations?

by Jody Bruner

Like many learning & development shops, we used paper evaluations without question since the beginning. But this year, we reevaluated, made the switch to electronic evaluations, and are thrilled that we did. Here are some of the benefits we’re enjoying:

For head office: In 2015, we delivered over 350 workshops. Our training coordinator, Sarah, spent 30 admin hours each week transcribing written evaluations into client reports. Imagine! Using electronic evaluations frees her up from this drudgery without compromising value, and lets us make better use of her talents. In addition, using digital technology takes us one small step toward being paperless.

For our learners: Electronic evaluations are easy and convenient. Participants like time to think about their responses. And they’re used to giving and getting feedback online—after all, it’s the norm everywhere but in the classroom.

For our trainers and instructional designers: This audience cares mainly about the success of the program and being able to use feedback to improve it. This study from the University of Saskatchewan dispels many of the perceived disadvantages of using electronic evaluations and reinforces the benefits we’re experiencing:

  • Although the response rate is lower, the results still reliably represent the entire population.
  • You can expect more comments. (63% of online respondents provide comments vs 10% of paper-based respondents.)
  • You receive better quality comments because learners have time to reflect before responding. We found no evidence to support concerns that participants who take the time to comment are the ones who have something negative to say.
  • You buy back precious class time.

For relationship managers: The report yields information they can use to improve our workshops AND sell more of them. It also demonstrates our currency and willingness to innovate.

For our clients (training managers):

  • Better quality reports – They see a visual snapshot per course and long term aggregated results.
  • Faster reporting – Clients receive summary reports about 7 days after the workshop.
  • Current best practices – They can demonstrate to their stakeholders that they are working with vendors who stay current and employ best practices.

Our experience

  • We are getting a minimum of 75% participant response rate (usually between 80-100).
  • Participants provide many more qualitative comments.
  • Admin time has greatly decreased.

Key learnings

Most people would rather have a root canal than change the way they’ve always done things. And change can only be effective with a LOT of communication.

  • Communication with stakeholders is critical, you can’t communicate enough!
  • General communications about evaluation methodology and specific communication about processes are both critical.
  • Two-way communication is extremely important to allow people to learn and assimilate change and ask questions.

If you haven’t made the move to electronic evaluations yet, we can recommend it. If you’d like to learn about our experience, just give us a call.

How to Keep Your Voice in Shape

Young Businessman Delivering Presentation At Conference

You’ll have a difficult time presenting without your voice, so take good care of it! If you find your voice is weak, or gets sore when you facilitate or present, use these tips to manage it:

  1. Warm up your voice before presenting. These exercises will do the trick nicely. Try doing them before and after presenting. You’ll look and sound pretty weird, so try to find privacy in a stairwell if you need to soothe your voice during a break in a full day of presenting.
  2. Drink a lot! Try water without ice and herbal tea. Ice will restrict your vocal muscles so stick to cool or warm drinks. Keeping a drink handy is especially important if you get dry mouth from nerves.
  3. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake before and during your presentation. These drinks are diuretics and will dehydrate you—all of you, including your vocal cords!
  4. If you feel nervous before your talk, relax your body with deep breathing exercises. When you’re tense, especially in the neck and shoulders, you use rapid, shallow breathing. A voice unsupported by deeper abdominal breathing cannot project and will tire quickly.
  5. Give your voice a break when you can. If you are hoarse from overuse, a rest from talking will help you recover. That means avoiding long, chatty phone calls and conversations that can wait until your voice is rested.
  6. When you’re speaking to large groups use a microphone. Without one, you’ll need to yell, which strains your vocal cords and ruins your voice quality.

Do you know any other strategies? Please share if you do.

How to Close Your Email Messages

by Jody Bruner

Back in the day of the letter, we were much more formal in our closings. Typically we signed off with Yours truly in formal situations, and Sincerely yours or even Cordially in less formal situations. In business today, while emails sometimes serve the same purpose as a letter, they are less formal and the traditional closes feel too dated and formal.

The close does more than mark the end of your message. It also helps reinforce your purpose in writing and defines the personality of your message—is it a thank you or an apology? Is it casual or formal? Is it personal or business?

You may be tempted to save time by making your complimentary close part of your signature block, but it won’t always match your message and can make you sound insincere. Present a more professional image by thoughtfully matching your close to the message you are writing.

Here are some popular options—the good, the bad and the ugly. Choose the close that suits your situation and your personal style:

Best: Totally safe to use.

Best wishes, Best regards: More formal, but still acceptable.

Regards: A bit bland, but totally acceptable.

Sincerely: Way too formal for an email. Maybe it would work for a cover email for a job application.

Take care: A bit bland but acceptable.

Thanks (or Many thanks): This is also common, and acceptable. Make sure you are actually thanking your reader for something specific.

Thanks in advance: Presumptuous. Avoid this if it is a command masquerading as premature gratitude.

Talk soon: Again, use it if you are going to be talking soon.

Warm regards: Formal and friendly at the same time.

Warmly: Nice. It’s great for emails to someone you’re close to but aren’t in regular touch with.

Your initial: This is very informal. Only use it with people who know you very well.

Your name: This feels cold and abrupt. The initial is warmer, even without the complimentary close.

Do you have a favourite complimentary close that’s not on this list? Please share!

Hello from Wavelength!

small logoOn January 1, 2016, IWCC Training in Communications and Bruner Business Communication amalgamated and adopted a new name: Wavelength Ltd. Our new company combines our strengths to provide our clients with a greater selection of workshops, more creative training solutions, and a larger team of specialists to support them.

As we move into the future as Wavelength, we renew our commitment to helping our learners find a clear, confident voice every time they write, speak or interact with others.

We are committed to improving our products and services. We’ve already added new people and technology, and we now provide more workshops, trainers, and creative solutions to solve our clients’ communication challenges.

Here’s what’s new and what’s the same:

4 new people to serve you

  • Leigh Geraghty, Relationship Manager. Leigh has tons of experience in L & D. (we’ve been trying to recruit Leigh for the last 5 years or so!)
  • Lesley Nevills, Training Manager. She will support Judy O’Donnell, our Director of Training
  • Brittany Moor, Sales Coordinator. Brittany provides much needed support to the operations dream team, which is having to deliver 40% more training than before
  • Jerilyn Willin, a new contract trainer in the US (Chicago area)

With our bright, new talent and the deep experience of our existing team we can respond efficiently and creatively to your needs.

We won’t fix things that aren’t broken

  • We have lots of happy clients and we’re not messing with what is working well. In the spirit of quality and staying current we’ll tweak existing workshops and materials in minor ways. We know you welcome our being more efficient and more effective

New workshops and services to improve your communication skills

  • IWCC clients can take advantage of Brunerbiz’s email workshops and online course
  • Brunerbiz clients can add more presentation, interpersonal and meeting skills workshops to their offerings

We are taking greater advantage of technology to save you time and money

  • We’ve adopted electronic evaluations
  • We’re exploring using email or text messaging to provide follow up to learners to improve the transfer of learning
  • We’ll be providing more online, virtual, micro and blended learning

New products, new solutions

  • We recognize that as technology changes, it requires new communication techniques. We are committed to staying current and providing our clients with the skills they need to succeed in the digital workplace. Look for new learning solutions in the coming year.
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