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Start the New Sales Year with a Bang: Seven Tips for Taking Your Business to the Next Level

boyThe beginning of each year is the perfect time to start fresh with a new outlook and approach for the coming months. Make the commitment to consistently do those things that differentiate you from your competitors.

Follow these tips to kick your sales up a notch in 2016:

  1. Analyze your customer and prospect base and schedule your time based on where you can have the biggest impact. Most of the time, 80 percent of your sales will come from less than 20% of your clients. Identify where those opportunities are and plan your time accordingly. Focus on the clients that really matter–the ones that can make your year and stop spinning your wheels with the little guys. Unless a prospect has been willing to provide you with some information, they’re only a cold prospect. Don’t let them take your time.
  1. Prioritize your existing customers as your best prospects. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% (Marketing Metrics, 2013). Cross-selling and up-selling to your install base are your biggest opportunities for success. You’ve earned credibility there – leverage it.
  2. Establish a consistent communication cadence with your customers. Carve out time every single week to contact your existing customers and prospects. Establish a routine schedule for each prospect and stick to it (weekly, monthly or quarterly). Your customers will be much more likely to think of you first when the next opportunity arises if you are the one keeping in touch instead of your competitor. Use a mix of phone, mail and email to maintain contact.
  3. Become an inquisitive seller . Ask questions of your clients. Listen carefully. If you are talking more than 50 percent of the time, you are talking 10 times too much. Your job is to probe and understand what the prospect’s problems are so you provide solutions that are tailored to each one.  You will be the preferred vendor in a competitive economy if you are a good listener.
  4. Send hand-written notes. This may seem old fashioned, but it happens so seldom now that it can make a big impact. Send a thank you note after each purchase to let your customers know how much you appreciate them and to further develop the relationship.
  5. Get active in your business community. Join associations that dovetail with your best prospects’ interests. Volunteer for industry committees and network with this select group of high-value targets. Rise to the top of these organizations to generate deserved prestige in your industry. The orders will flow in. People like to buy from winners.
  6. Commit to being an ongoing learner. Don’t let your skills become stale. It’s important to continue to develop your skills and knowledge base on an ongoing basis to keep up with industry trends. Complete a minimum of ONE learning opportunity each quarter. This will allow you to maintain your relevancy and continue to bring added value to your customers.  Many training courses are free and available online or even on demand to fit within your schedule.

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Take a Breather: Give Yourself a Mental Break for Optimal Productivity

Working in sales often seems like a race to the finish. Longer hours can mean the difference between winning and losing the deal.  But those long hours often reach a point of diminishing returns. Have you ever considered the opportunity costs of working too hard? Is it possible that meeting your sales goal may require working LESS hours?

There are vast amounts of research available showing that we all have a limited amount of mental resources to leverage. So when we are constantly exhausting those resources, we are not as productive as we can be. The brain, just like a muscle, gets fatigued after too much time on the job. If you overwork your muscles without a break, you will eventually cause damage. The same is true of your brain. Burning up mental resources without replenishing leads to stress, burnout and poor performance. It becomes difficult to think creatively, solve problems, maintain emotional stability and have the persistence needed to complete required tasks. So just like taking a breather after an hour of Zumba or basketball, our brains need a break from work as well.

According to one study by Entrepreneur, the point of mental exhaustion occurs within three hours. But many scientists say our brains need a break after just 90 minutes. And there are large bodies of work showing that people who take regular mental breaks have higher levels of productivity than those who don’t.

Here are some tips to maintain your peak mental performance:

  1. Take short breaks during the day. Every 45-90 minutes pause to take a walk to the restroom, do some stretches at your desk, grab a coffee or simply doodle on some paper. The optimal break schedule for the time-pressed person is one six minute break every 80 minutes, according to These little breaks will help refresh your mind and give you the added energy you need to focus. But make sure you step away from the “screen”. Taking breaks to scroll your Facebook site or shop online doesn’t reap the same benefits.
  2. Take more frequent vacations. A 2014 Oxford Economics Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S. showed 42% of employees with paid time off finished the year with unused days, leaving an average of 8.1 days unused. But more people might take those unused vacation days if they realized that those who take vacations tend to enjoy both mental and physical benefits: less stress, less risk for heart disease, decreased depression rates, and more motivation to achieve goals. Bottom line, healthier employees are happier and more engaged. And the anticipation of an upcoming vacation can boost positivity for up to eight weeks prior to the trip, according to a 2010 study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  3. Consider taking a mid-afternoon nap. Naps can enhance performance, restore alertness, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. (Many companies have started making “Nap rooms” available to employees for this very reason. To make the most of your nap, experts say, rest in a cool, dark room and limit your nap to 20 or 40 minutes.

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Invest In Yourself to Get the Greatest Returns

The gift of education is the gift that keeps on giving. Getting your higher education degree is a critical element of success for most professionals these days. But education shouldn’t stop with your college experience.

Ongoing training is also necessary to maintain your competitive edge. This is especially true for sales professionals who act as consultants to their customers. Keeping up with industry changes, new methodologies and customer concerns are an absolute necessity. More importantly, ongoing training results in more money! A training analysis showed that training geared for sales and marketing professionals resulted in 24% higher profit margins and an increase in sales of up to 6.5% (, 2013).

So there are two primary focus areas for training when it comes to sales professionals. First, learn the basics. There are fundamental processes that every salesperson should master to enjoy consistent success. The earlier you learn these fundamentals in your career, the better off you will be. But even the best salespeople will get away from the basics the longer they stay in business. It’s not at all uncommon to see sales professionals succeed in their first year of business only to watch them fall into a slump during their second or later years because they get away from the basics.

Taking refresher courses on the fundamentals will keep you sharp. Some of the basics include territory planning, cold calling techniques and negotiation/closing skills just to name a few. Do you know how to mine your install base customers? Only focusing on net new leads? The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%  (, 2013).

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Cisco Partner Weekly Rewind – September 4, 2015


Each week, we’ll highlight the most important Cisco Partner Ecosystem news and stories, as well as point you to important, Cisco-related partner content you may have missed along the way. Here’s what you might have missed this week:

Off the Top

Cisco and Apple Announce Partnership

This week, at our yearly Global Sales Experience Conference (GSX) in Las Vegas, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, surprised everyone by joining John Chambers on stage to announce an exciting new partnership between Apple and Cisco.

The two companies are coming together to optimize Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps, integrating iPhones with Cisco environments and providing unique collaboration capabilities on iPhones and iPads.

Apple  Cisco Partnership

The big news expectedly created a lot of buzz, including this tweet from the Apple CEO:

Stay tuned for more details on how this will benefit our partners.  In the meantime, read what Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins had to say about combining the power of Cisco and Apple.

Karin Surber Asks if You’re Ready for a Fresh New Start

Karin always does a great job sharing sales tips and best practices for our partners. This week’s no different as she provides a clear path for partners to plan out their sales strategy for the year.

Karen lists 7 steps to optimize sales performance and achieve maximum Partner Plus incentives.  Take a moment to check out her full blog post as it’s sure to provide you with a head start for succeeding in FY16.

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Open Your Mind to See More Closed Deals

Are you an open minded person sales professional? Most of you reading this will say “Yes, I am open minded” without really thinking through the question.  Now more than ever we live in a world that is constantly changing. Keeping an open mind with your customers, prospects and other stakeholders is critical to your ability to survive and even thrive in this evolving and dynamic business environment. Unfortunately there’s no proven test to determine whether you are truly open-minded but the benefits are indisputable.

Here are just a few benefits of being open-minded:

  • Greater credibility as a fair-minded expert: Keeping an open mind allows an opportunity for you to change with the constantly evolving selling landscape. It doesn’t mean you HAVE to change your beliefs but it means you are at least open to evaluating new ideas and views. You may end up believing even more strongly in your existing ideas but being open means you’ve evaluated all sides of an idea or belief which lends to your credibility with customers and stakeholders.
  • Makes yourself vulnerable which opens the door to more authentic relationships: Having an open mind means you have to admit that you don’t know everything. It means being honest when you don’t know something. This can be uncomfortable as many sales people believe they are expected to be the expert and have all the answers. Many sales people unfortunately divert to the tactic of “overselling” where they sell based on what they hope to be true without verifying instead of simply admitting they don’t know. But seeing the world through an open mind is what makes you vulnerable and being vulnerable is the key to more enriching relationships. This vulnerability can be both terrifying and exhilarating but is required for true authenticity.
  • Strengthens your character: Open-mindedness provides a springboard for new ideas and a baseline that you can build upon, piling one idea on top of another. Being open-minded typically allows for new experiences which collectively make you the person you are and strengthen the beliefs that you hold. It’s very hard to build on experiences without an open mind.
  • Helps you to gain confidence. When you live with an open mind, you are continually learning and experiencing which contributes to a strong sense of self. You are not confined by your own beliefs, or the beliefs of others. You are open to evaluating new ideas without judgement. Imagine going into a new prospect’s environment and truly being open to the experience.  Take the time to learn as much as possible about what is going on there without jumping to a quick solution. Then, and only then, can you really understand what is needed and propose an optimal solution. Over time, your confidence will soar because you will no longer be fearful of the unknown. You will welcome it because it will add to your experience as a seasoned sales and business professional.

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