Iwould rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than sit through a humdrum and aimless sales presentation that goes nowhere. What needless pain that is. There is something to say for sales momentum and pursuing a goal in everything you say and do.

Sales momentum is the process of creating and maintaining excitement in a buyer with the goal of making a sale. Its power is greatly underestimated. This month, let's take a close look at this important function.

Good sales momentum can help your buyer focus on the fast track to what you are trying to sell. There is a flip side to good momentum - and it's not a good thing. Poor sales momentum is tantamount to boring your buyer and creating a lackluster experience. This is not the stuff of which winners with big books of business are made. Winners skillfully create and maintain good sales momentum throughout the sales cycle.


Don't do these things

Let's look at a few behaviors you must practice to have good sales momentum. We'll start with the things you don't want to do.

1. Don't be boring. Boring advisers don't sell anything, and actually create a negative experience for the buyer. Your buyer wants the performance of a professional adviser, not pointless, monotone blather. Yet we all know sales people who are boring and trying to make a living. It's tough.

2. Don't talk too much. You have a singular objective: to make a sale and build a relationship. Every word, every example, every visual must be geared toward that objective. Extraneous chit-chat, other than ice-breaker conversation at the beginning of the sales call, is distracting and unhelpful. So shut up and sell!

3. Don't talk down to the buyer. Some sellers talk down to their buyers. Don't do that. Maybe the seller has superior knowledge of the product and so forth, but such talk only kills your sales momentum. Engage your buyer professionally and with respect, and you will gain and hold his or her attention - which is conducive to building sales momentum.

4. Don't practice consultative selling. Oh, I can hear the howls already, but please hear me out on this one. I once wrote in this column about the pitfalls of consultative selling at the beginning of a presentation. The logic goes like this: You sell insurance and related products and services. The buyer knows this. If you start asking probing questions at the beginning of your sale, the buyer is going to grouse at you with the usual insurance gripes. Now you're trapped. You will have a hard time getting out of that box and being the holistic healer of problems that we discuss in this column periodically.

Practice consultative selling only at the end of your presentation after the buyer has a clear and accurate read of what makes you different and attractive as an adviser.

It seems that everyone practices the consultative selling approach. You should avoid it just for that reason. Besides, the consultative selling method is easygoing and conversational. Those aspects are not the ingredients that create sales momentum. Do not practice consultative selling until the end of your meeting.


Do these things

Now let's turn our attention to more positive concepts that create sales momentum. If you want to sell, do this.

1. Practice emotional labor. My definition of emotional labor is faking how you feel emotionally and projecting an image that your buyer expects. What image does your buyer expect you to project? Well, your buyer doesn't expect you to be down in the mouth. Your buyer expects you to project a positive, professional and optimistic image about the buyer and his or her business. That is a necessary start for creating sales momentum. Put on your game face. Emotional labor is a function of emotional intelligence. We can test for this. Individuals with a high emotional intelligence quotient tend to be successful, so develop your emotional intelligence and demonstrate emotional labor.

2. Show integrity and ethical behavior in everything you do. It's a sad commentary that we have to talk about this, but we do. You will create sales momentum if you show integrity and practice ethical behavior in everything you do. We all know of someone who is dishonest in his or her business affairs. Sometimes there is a short-term gain, but there is always a long-term loss with dishonesty.

Integrity in its purest form means being in public exactly what you're like, what you do and what you think when you're all alone. If that's not a pretty picture, then clean up your act - you may be full of something, but it's not integrity.

Similarly, be ethical in your business affairs. An ethical reputation will precede you and help make your sales calls go smoothly and purposefully. Being unethical is a conscious choice. It has numerous negative consequences that you may never live down. So be ethical with clients. The cost to do otherwise is too great.

3. Create excitement and be optimistic. You have to be excited and optimistic to create and sustain sales momentum. Psyche yourself up for each call as if you had the jitters and it was the first call you ever went on. Don't forget that youthful, giddy feeling. You're on stage. The performance is yours, so be excited and project optimism as far as the buyer's ears can hear.

4. Stay on message. If you're not boring and not talking too much, you still have to remember to stay on message. The best sale is a presentation on a singular topic. That's not always possible, but you still have to stay on message. Educate the buyer on the features of your product or service. Excite the customer on the features of what you're offering. Speak deliberately as you laser toward the prize of a closed sale.

5. Be humble, yet confident. Don't be a narcissist. Buyers hate arrogance and they hate sales people who are full of themselves. I'll bet you do too. Too many sales people are overheated and need to tone down their rhetoric a few notches to make the buyer feel comfortable.

Humility among sales people is a tricky topic to discuss. We can test for this in sales people. Professional testing instruments like Caliper® and other instruments can measure a seller's ego drive, which - along with high resiliency - is highly desired. But a high ego drive can also bring on a sense of infallibility and the arrogance we see in many sales people. Love the strong ego drive, applaud the resiliency, but downplay the arrogance that often comes along for the ride.

Be humble yet confident. That combination in a personality will allow you to seize sales momentum without coming off like a clown. Humility is a virtue, not a weakness. Being humble lets your buyer seize the power position if he or she wants to, and that's OK. You're there to make a sale. Being savvy in your approach is smart business.

Sales is an art. So is the practice of creating and maintaining sales momentum. You will not meet your sales numbers as fast, if at all, unless you develop your skill at creating momentum in a sales presentation.

Sales momentum is not just a nice idea. It's a necessary component of successful selling. The marketplace is more competitive than ever, and you cannot afford to be dull in any area of your craft. It is the totality of your approach, knowledge, products, services and differentiation that makes the sale today. You should shoot for nothing less.

Davidson is the founder of futureofficenetwork.com and mysalesrockstar.com. He is also on the faculty of the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Reach him at craigd@davidsonmarketing.com.



Voluntary gets a vote of confidence

The economy still may be stuck in neutral, but industry brokers, carriers and vendors are bullish about the future of voluntary benefits, which enable employers to offer a robust product suite at a minimal administrative cost associated with payroll deduction. One such barometer is Eastbridge Consulting Group's latest Voluntary Industry Confidence Index, a semi-annual survey that gauges attitudes among market leaders.

The findings indicate that not only was confidence in this product line rising at the end of last year compared with the same time in 2009, but expectations for acquiring new business in 2011 also were higher.

Another noteworthy result was that for the first time since the survey's inception in December 2005, respondents who expected a positive impact on sales this year surpassed those who gave a negative forecast (47% versus 33%). The percentage of optimism had been about 30% since December 2008, representing a significant jump.

Index calculations are based on three key measures that include sales growth, industry profitability and employee enthusiasm about voluntary products.

Two of those metrics were up from the mid-year survey, while the third declined slightly, reports Eastbridge VP Bonnie Brazzell, adding that there was a 38% spike in the number of respondents expecting a huge increase in sales and profitability, the highest level since December 2006.

"The index increased to its highest level since December of 2006," according to Eastbridge President Gil Lowerre, who says the overall Confidence Index edged up to 102.1 at the end of last year from 99.9 in mid-year survey and sees a turning point in the economy's impact. "We are pleased to see that those in the voluntary industry believe the economy is moving back to normal and opportunities for voluntary will be increased."

- Bruce Shutan, Los Angeles-based freelance writer

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