How to Sell Like an Expert Salesman

How to SellIt began when you were just a little kid. You were trying to convince your parents why you needed a new toy, or a little puppy. When you got a little older, you were selling lemonade on the corner of your street.  Fast forward several more years, and you were applying for college. Now, you’re applying for jobs. The fact is, everyone sells. Whether you are an outgoing salesperson, or a brainy scientist, knowing how to sell your product, or yourself, is essential.

Lucky for us, Clive Whittaker, a Sales Manager specializing in emerging technologies and process flow for Par 4 Technology Group stopped by providing us with some helpful tips on how to sell effectively. With more than 24 years of sales experience, and more than 14,000 sales calls, he has conducted sales trainings, mentored new salespeople and spent five years as a volunteer teacher in Florida prisons, teaching inmates about the importance of attitude in the workplace. Read on to find out exactly what he suggests for those new to the world of selling.

Profile of a Top Salesman

While not every salesman will share the exact same qualities, there are several traits that you’ll find in most. Most salesmen have a large ego, are highly empathetic, and are very modest (at least to their customer’s face). They love adventure, possess a curiosity about the world, and find themselves unafraid of failure, having failed more than 70% of the time. They often live by a code and follow an established set of rules and guidelines.

When selling, they don’t push things that won’t work, including their product. They have a determination about them, asking a business a minimum of five times before giving up. They “collect people,” always finding valuable connections to add to weave into their network. Finally, they sell their own personal brand, not their company’s.

Four Steps to Selling

One can boil down selling into four simple steps:

Qualifying – You need to qualify both parties. Show the customer you can deliver the product you’re selling them, and that they need your product.

Benefits – No one cares what your marketing department does. They want to know “WIFM” or “what’s in it for me.”  Remember, the benefits your product brings to the customer are not the features of the product.

Overcoming Objections – It’s all about how you present your product to your end customers. Before meeting with your customer, you need to figure out how to present your product, and also know the five biggest objections customers will have to buying your product, and how to reply to those concerns.

Closing – Ask for their business. If you’re in customer service, ask “has this call taken care of your needs?”  Lead the person closer to the solution they need.

Question Pause Question

Another four part sales strategy Clive recommends and endorses is SPIN selling – situation, problem, implication, needs benefit.  To explain this strategy, let’s say you’re selling your customer a wheel wrench.

Situation – You are in your car driving down the highway. It’s a beautiful day, sunny and warm, perfect for a leisurely drive. You’re driving through the mountains, on your way to a picnic. You have your family with you; your kids are in the backseat watching a movie.

Problem – One wheel is loose. You knew about this problem before you went out, but you didn’t think it was a big deal. Besides, the nearest mechanic was far away, and you didn’t want the inconvenience of driving all the way there.

Implication – The wheel fell off, and you crash into another car. Everybody dies except one passenger in the other car.

Needs Benefit – The wheel wrench is a tool that makes tightening the bolts on your tires simple.

Rules to Live by

Finally, every good salesman will live be these rules:

  • Know when you suck – Self-awareness is the most important thing. If you’re having a bad day, and do a bad job selling to a customer, be honest and tell them.
  • Don’t buy it back – When you make the sale, switch the topic to something light, fluffy. If you sold a Prius, but then mentioned you need to change the battery every three years, and then lost the sale, you bought it back.
  • Persistence outweighs resistance.
  • Down, right liar – When you’re lying, your eyes go down and to the right.

With these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be on your way to selling in no time.

3 Tips for Designing Effective PowerPoint Slides


You are a young professional. You’ve been put in charge of landing a new client. This is a huge deal, both for you and your company. Successfully landing this client will significantly increase your businesses revenue, and will also make or break your chances at that promotion. You have until tomorrow to create a rocking presentation and blow them away. However, you’re not particularly good at PowerPoint. You don’t  think of yourself as very creative and you sort of resent making PowerPoints.

Lucky for you, Adam Sigel, the accounts and rewards program manager at My Energy stopped by to teach us how to design effective PowerPoint slides. Here’s what he had to say:

Designing Your Slides – Before designing your slides, it is useful to plan your content. First write down everything you want to say, and then organize it in a logical way. When you begin designing your slides, start with a white slide. Don’t choose a generic office theme. Everyone uses them. Simplicity in your slides is good. Leave as much white space as possible. There is no need to include your logo, URL, and email on every slide. Unless your company mandates it, put this stuff on the last slide of your presentation.

Pictures – Decide what the general theme of your slide is, and find a picture to represent that general theme. Metaphorical pictures work well.  Make sure you use good quality images. Using a fuzzy photo shows you were rushed or maybe you don’t care. Take the extra minute and find a good quality photo. A great place to find images for presentations is  If you’re using charts to show data, make sure your chart tells one story. Design it so that the point you are driving is obvious. Everyone in the audience should get the same point if you didn’t say anything for that slide.

Font & Colors – Choose a serif, or sans serif font that you like, that looks professional and that fits your
brand. Avoid the default windows office fonts. Even though they look nice, they are generic, and everyone uses them. Certain colors evoke certain emotions. For example, red signifies anger and passion, purple signifies wisdom, etc.  Choose colors to evoke emotional responses in your audience.

Follow his advice, and you’ll be sure to come up with some creative and unique slides to help you land that big client!

6 Northeastern Startups That Nailed It At NEXPO


At, we love college students. They’re the backbone of the startup community here in Boston, and they make just as many contributions to the scene as their graduated counterparts. We love college students so much so, in fact, that we allow any currently enrolled college student to take any of our classes for free.

That’s why we attended NEXPO last week, to see what all the fuss is about Northeastern’s entrepreneurship program. The event, a trade show hosted by the schools’s IDEA Venture Accelerator, provided the opportunity for over 20 startups formally enrolled in IDEA to receive feedback on their business ideas, develop relationships with potential customers, and gain some exposure in the community. While all of them did a great job presenting themselves, here’s a list of six of them who really stole the show.

SplashScore rates you based on your influence on Facebook. You earn points for receiving likes and comments on your everyday posts. When you earn enough points, you can win prizes from big name brands like Amazon, Sephora, and Target. Basically, SplashScore rewards you for the blood, sweat and tears you put into your Facebooking.

CareerApp is a gateway between new graduates and the employers who recruit them. It’s a common application for jobs, which helps recruiters find qualified candidates based on meaningful data and save applicant the hassle of entering the same information into forms repeatedly.

Willo Cocktails provides low calorie, organic bottled cocktails. Made with premium spirits, these cocktails free you from the guilt associated with standard cocktails and the hassle of mixing them. Founder, Starielle Newman conceived the idea two summers ago when she began mixing margaritas for guests at the parties she threw. However, mixing them was time consuming and the organic ingredients she used were hard to find. She thought it would be great to have pre-mixed cocktails, and thus, her idea was born!

Menubis is a SaaS platform that enables restaurants, bars, hotels, stadiums, etc. to take orders from their customers’ mobile devices, right from their tables, without having to buy expensive tablets or displays. Using this system allows restaurants to reward returning customers, and collect information on their customers eating and spending habits.

Moniker Guitars is a custom guitar manufacturer that allows their customers to fully customize their guitars. Everything from the shape, color, and component parts can be tailored to fit the specific needs and wants of every customer. Traditionally, options were limited when buying a new guitar. Moniker Guitars is the first to offer musicians a chance to customize their guitars to reflect their style both musically and sonically.

The Handle Bar Is an indoor cycling studio scheduled to open this summer in the South End. Follow them on Twitter so you’re sure to hear exactly when they open.

The student startup scene is just as vibrant as the rest of the startup scene. We’re thrilled to see what else these Boston students start!

How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Program

Before attending this class on affiliate marketing, I’ll admit I had never even heard the term affiliate marketing before. However, Dan Marques, a Senior Online Marketing Manager at Reebok, and wearer-of-many-hats in other ventures, gave us a general overview of affiliate marketing, and showed us how to utilize it in our own businesses. Here is what I learned from this awesome class:

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards its affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.  There are four parties in affiliate marketing: the merchant (retailer, brand), the network (contains offers for the affiliate and takes care of payments), the publisher (affiliate), and the customer

There are several major networks which are good to use, including ShareASale, Google Affiliate Network, Linkshare and Commission Junction. Affiliate marketing programs have several pros/cons.  When using an affiliate marketing program, you are paying for performance, it’s quick and easy to launch, it builds your online exposure, and it’s easy to measure ROI. However, it can be time consuming to maintain, and there is a risk of fraud and negative brand exposure.

Pre-Launch Considerations:

Before launching your affiliate marketing program, there are several things you need to consider. First, do you want to manage your program in-house, use network services or use an OPM (Outsource program management)?   Managing your program in-house gives you more control over your brand, but is time consuming. Using network services or an OPM can save you time, but cost you money and give you less control over how your brand is portrayed.

The next thing to consider is your payout method. Common methods include Cost per Action (sign up, purchase), Cost Per Lead (email submission, quote submission), and Percentage of Sales (ecommerce). Other pre-launch considerations:

  • Consider your margin structure–don’t offer discounts you can’t afford to give out
  • Look at the affiliate programs of your competitors
  • Develop a search marketing policy, Trademark usage policy, loyalty/incentivized program policy, and adware/spyware/CAN-SPAM Compliance policy  for your publishers to abide by
  • Create a policy stating how you will attribute your publishers with purchases, leads, etc.
  • Make your policies easy to understand

Launch Checklist:

After launching your affiliate program, recruit publishers. Pay publishers for featuring your product, and then remember to email them at periodically with brand updates, new discounts, etc.  To recruit publishers, reach out to them directly via forums, blogs, competitor mentions, the network, and SEO rankings.  Incentivize your publishers. Give them incentives for taking the first action (adding links to their site), and incentives for their first order. Incentives to improve performance can be exclusive content/offers, tiered payment structure, bonuses for reaching certain levels, increased payout for increased exposure, special landing page, free products, and payment frequency.

When you’re looking to grow your affiliate program, remember the 90/10 rule. 90% of your affiliate channel revenue comes from 10% of your publishers. Therefore, focus on improving your programs with your 10% and those near your 10%. Other considerations upon launching your affiliate program:

  • Start your commission structure low (it’s always easier to go up)
  • Send a welcome email to your publishers, which includes contact information for your program manager
  • Add a link and page on  your website to the affiliate program
  • Put in place a policy for returns/cancelled/fraud orders
  • Sign up for other affiliate programs to get an idea of how they work

Pitfalls to Avoid:

Avoid these common mistakes which can ruin your affiliate marketing program!

  • Coupon/Deal Driven Program:  If you run too many of these, you may be giving away discounts you don’t need to. You may be cannibalizing conversions from your “upper funnel” affiliates and you may be diluting your brand. For your program to be successful, diversify beyond coupons/deals.
  • Paying for Fraud/Refund/Canceled Orders:  Don’t pay your publishers for fraudulent, refunded, or canceled orders. Create a monthly process for reversing the commission on all these orders. Automate this process if possible
  • Beware the Mysterious Affiliate: If you don’t know what they are doing to drive traffic, don’t let them into your affiliate program. If they seem suspicious (having an extremely high conversion rate) ask them to explain their method. If you don’t like their answer, kick them out of your program.
  • Paying Upfront for Placements: Paying upfront never benefits you.  You will almost never generate enough revenue to cover the upfront cost. Instead, align your incentives with the publishers. Increase their commission for the placement, or offer them a bonus if the placement drive more orders

After reading through this overview, you’ll now have the foundation set in place to tackle your own affiliate marketing program.

How to Resolve Organizational Conflict

Organizational ConflictIn both our personal and work lives, conflict is inevitable. Although some of us may try, it is impossible to avoid. It is perfectly natural to want to avoid conflict. It feels bad, and avoiding it is hardwired into our brains. However, conflict can be a productive business tool. It can generate organizational change and allow for the growth and evolution of a company.

To help us understand conflict better and help improve our conflict resolution skills, Claudette Rowley of Metavoice Coaching and Consulting stopped by to give us the rundown. Since founding Metavoice in 2000, she has coached and consulted internationally, guiding professionals, corporations and non-profits through collaborative, strengths-based strategic planning, team building and leadership development processes. She specializes in teaching and training people to develop the self-awareness, perspectives and skills to communicate, resolve conflict and lead successfully. She left us with some awesome advice on conflict resolution.

Five Conflict-Handling Modes

There are five different ways people handle conflict. The first step to understanding conflict is understanding these five methods. It is important to note that no one method of handling conflict is best. Each method has certain situations in which it is ideal to use and not as ideal.

Competing – assertive, uncooperative, and power-oriented. This person pursues his or her own concerns at the expense of others.

Collaborating – assertive, cooperative. This person attempts to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies both parties. Collaborating might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, or collaborating to solve an interpersonal problem.

Compromising – intermediate in assertiveness and cooperativeness. This person tries to find a mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a fast, middle-ground solution.

Avoiding – Unassertive, uncooperative. This person does not immediate pursue his concerns or the concerns of the other party. This person avoids the conflict.

Accommodating – Unassertive, cooperating. This is the opposite of a competing. They neglect their own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity, yielding to another’s point of view, or obeying another person’s order when you don’t want to.

Preparation Process

There are four steps you should take before you enter into a conflict to help you successfully resolve the conflict.

Step 1: Understand your emotions. You must understand what your conflict tendencies are, what triggers you emotionally, and what your emotions are towards the current conflict.

Step 2: Assess your assumptions about intent. What are you assuming about the other person, yourself or the conflict that you don’t actually know is true? Be aware of these. Also, what do you assume is true that you don’t know as fact?

Step 3: Put yourself in others’ shoes. Try to understand what the other person is thinking or feeling. Don’t make assumptions about them; just get curious about what they might be thinking. Notice your own reaction to this. Do you feel empathy for them, or feel the same? Do you recognize they may have a point, or do you better understand what might be important to them?

Step 4: Identify your interests. What is important to you? What would a successful outcome look like to you?

Communication Skills

After you’ve prepared, the next step is to engage in the conflict. Here are some things to remember when you’re in the conflict:

Key Communication Skills: Listen and acknowledge everyone. Give each party the opportunity to tell their story. Identify interests, needs and priorities. Ask open-ended questions to probe and clarify. Stay as neutral as possible. Acknowledge emotions rather than acting on them.

Clarify Agreements, Differences and Options: Look for areas of agreement and clarify areas of difference. Brainstorm options for resolution and mutual gain.

Determine Objective Criteria: In doing so, there are three questions to ask. How will you know when the conflict is resolved? How will you know that it’s staying resolved? Who will document agreement and by when?

If You’re Stuck

If you’ve followed the advice given above and still can’t reach an agreement, here is a few more things to try:

  • Refrain from blaming, defensiveness and criticism
  • Name your experience—“This is what I’m experiencing now, this is how I feel…”
  • Reframe the conversation toward interests or options
  • Take a break and reconvene at an agreed upon time
  • Get a neutral third party if needed

By following these conflict resolution methods, you’ll be sure to successfully resolve your next conflict.