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Boosting your sales skills

Globe and Mail Update

Success in business means being able to sell. You can have the best product, or service, or staff in the market, but if you can't convince others to believe in you, or more simply, favour your brand over the others, it will all go for nought. This is true whether your trying to get hired, win a contract, secure financing or close a deal.

It's for that reason we've asked Shane Gibson, a Vancouver-based sales expert and author of Closing Bigger: The field guide to closing bigger deals to provide insights and advice on how to improve your sales skills. Mr. Gibson combines a background in sales, new entrepreneur development and leadership coaching. His clients include CMA Canada, The Ford Motor Company of Canada, UBC's Sauder Business School, Allied Van lines, and The Toronto Board of Trade.

Mr. Gibson was online earlier to take your questions. Your questions and his answers appear at the bottom of this page.

Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Rasha Mourtada, Shane, thank you for joining us today. We've got lots of questions, so we'll get right to them.

BeeRich III, Toronto: How would you pitch a 'service' to a Fortune 50 company when you are a small business? I have spent many years trying to sell a large company on something I know can give them all kinds of increased sales, into numbers most of us can't grasp. Their answer is that their current IT initiatives keep them from taking on such potential projects, but I think that's not the case. The project is indeed massive, but it has so much potential, I don't know why they wouldn't invest the minimum it would take to see how well this could work. Your thoughts?

Shane Gibson: Fortune 50 companies are indeed a challenge, especially when proposing an innovation to them. As entrepreneurs we celebrate innovation, in fact we get awards and industry recognition for it. The challenge is where "innovation" means progress, and productivity to us it often means something entirely different to someone within a bureaucracy.

The word to them generates all kinds of questions with internal stakeholders: How much work will I have to do to implement this solution? Who's going to pay for this work or disruption? What will it cost to train my staff to competently use it? Will this change affect how I do my job or how I'm evaluated? Is the vendor competing for my authority and could they usurp my power? If I take this solution to the rest of the team, and it doesn't work will it impact my career or get me fired? How can I justify buying this after I just spent $3,0000,0000.00 on something else that was supposed to do the same thing?

So as we passionately pitch our new exciting, innovative solution our prospect could literally be terrified (especially if we're talking to a middle manager and not an executive decision maker). When selling technology we have to take the F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) out of saying yes. This means presenting our solution in a way that won't disrupt their productivity, we as a vendor must clearly communicate that we have a smooth strategy for implementation and that we're not there to replace anyone, we're there to partner.

As a final note, have you mapped all of the key stakeholders in the decision? Do you know who they are and what motivates them. Here are some Who's and What's:

What person or group of people will make the final decision and what motivates them?

Who will use this solution and/or will be responsible for implementing it and what are their concerns?

Who will analyze this service and have the power to say "NO?"

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