Best Practices for Successful Sales Professionals by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC


During my sales training programs I am often asked about the best practices I have adopted for myself over the years. I created this list Enjoy…Cindy

Attitude is everything – this may not sound like a best practice, but believe me it is. How we do anything is how we do everything. If your attitude is negative or cynical before you undertake any task it will definitely affect not only your results, but the experience of everyone who interacts with you.  Before you pick up the phone, go on a sales call or interact with others in your organization, do a personal check in.  Do an attitude check and ask yourself “Am I present and focused right now.  Is my intention positive or negative?”  When I do this I ask myself “Am I working in Mediocrity or Mastery today?”  I always choose Mastery and it sets the tone and my results for the day.index

Goals, objectives and targets – setting BIG goals and high targets has always been the way I go about setting my objectives for the year. I set annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals.  I find by keeping the BIG goals in sight, broken down as daily actionable items really helps me stay on track.  Monthly I review my activities to see where I am on or off target and take any necessary actions.  I have a call sheet that I created so I can track my daily activities such as calls, proposals submitted or connections made, again a simple visible tool to let me know how I am doing.  There is a saying I heard years ago “Inch by Inch Success is a Cinch” and it sounds simple but it really does come down to what you do with your minutes to achieve your desired outcomes.

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan – this is the Intel slogan that I am in total agreement with. In addition to setting my goals and targets for the year, I also create an annual plan for marketing, new program offerings, newsletters and sources for new prospects. There are 5 questions that I learned from a leadership program to ask myself when I am creating my plan that really help:

    1. What do I know to do? (what’s obvious)
    2. What am I saying I will do? (get present to what you say)
    3. What do others expect me to do even though I haven’t said I would do it?
    4. What do I have to do to have my work complete?
    5. What do I have to do to make sure this is done as it was meant to be done?

I find when I ask these questions, it gives me a deeper connection and commitment to my plans, yielding me greater results.

Listening – Often people think that the sales people who have the “Gift of the Gab” are the most successful in sales. I used to think that many years ago when I first went into sales. I learned very quickly that this is not the case at all.  Salespeople who have the ability to listen to what is being said, as well as what is not being said, often report a much deeper connection with their clients.  I have found it very helpful to not only listen to the words a prospect or clients says but also to listen to the non-verbal communication.  Sometimes listening to tone of someone’s voice can reveal their level of commitment or enthusiasm about what you are offering.  Observing body language during a meeting is also another way to observe the level of interest.  It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone, the opportunity to be heard.

Questioning – It has been my experience that when I go into a meeting, whether a prospect or a client, I have more success when I come to the meeting with some relevant questions to ask. It is not so much about telling a customer what I can do for them but more about finding out what they need and then I can fit the solution to their specific need. By asking open ended and probing questions I gain a deeper understanding of the customer need.

Qualifying – I agree with Zig Ziglar – there are suspects, prospects and clients and everyone is a suspect until they are qualified.  I have many clients in many different sectors but they all have some common criteria.  I have found that once I identified the most relevant information that I need to qualify a potential customer, it helps me to move past the ones that most likely won’t do business with my organization anyway.  It is worth the time to identify what companies meet your qualifying criteria.

Talk to the Decision Maker – I know this sounds obvious but it can be tricky at times to get to speak with the senior person who ultimately makes the decision. Decision makers are busy people and have people to support them in a variety of duties, including screening incoming calls. It has been my experience to make friends with the assistant as a first step.  If you can’t speak to the decision maker first hand, I will start to develop a relationship with their assistant.  I recently confirmed an account with a large financial institution because I did just that.  It was over a year before I was able to get in front of the decision maker.  The VP said she admired my persistence.

Pleasant Persistence Pays – if there is one best practice that has yielded me the most results, it is being pleasantly persistent. I have a system of staying in touch with people that helps them keep me top of mind.  I know that often when I am cold calling there is very little chance that the prospect would have a need for training when I call (in fact I read recently it was a 3% chance that the person I was calling would have a need at the exact time I placed my call)  I have a very soft approach and because I am so lit up about the value we deliver and the benefits of working with me, often the prospect is curious about how Athena Training and Consulting Inc. could help them and are willing to meet with me.  My introduction meetings are very short and people are so pleased that I called them.  I provide them with a unique one-stop solution that simplifies their process.  I simply love sharing what we offer and I know what a difference it can make.

Objection Handling – Accept that objections are simply part of the sales process. Knowing your top three or four objections and preparing to handle them is one of the keys to ongoing success.  Often people’s objections are a signal that they either don’t fully understand how your solution will solve their problem or they want more information.  With some people their automatic first response is no. Years ago I lost a big opportunity because I wasn’t fully prepared to handle the objections that came up in a sales presentation.  I learned from that experience and now I do my best to assess any possible objections and I put them right up front in the presentation.  I deal with them before they even come up.

Recap for Understanding During a sales call I am always taking notes. I want to remember and document the pertinent information from each of my sales calls. This is particularly important when I am doing a needs assessment.  I make a habit of recapping my understanding of what there need is, the timing of the project and any other particulars that are relevant to the proposal.  I find when I read back the notes from our discussion there is often additional information and ideas that the client will add to our original discussion.  It also saves me from going off and preparing a proposal with any misinformation.

Know Values/Benefits –  To me this is critical to a Salesperson’s success. I am sometimes surprised to see how many of the participants in my sessions sell features.  I learned very early in my career that people buy benefits.  What can your product or service do for me? The WIIFM for everyone is critical.  I like to take it a step further and make sure that how you communicate the values and benefits be authentic to you.  Companies spend millions of dollars every year coming up with branding and slogans to let the world know who they are.  I think an Advisor should also infuse their own personality and values to any value proposition.  This goes a long way to deliver a truly authentic message from the sales person making the presentation.

 Matching Styles – As humans we have a tendency to get along with and trust people who are much like ourselves.  I have found if I match pace and tonality when I am speaking with people on the phone, leaving voice messages or meeting face-to-face helps us to connect more quickly.  I have been in meetings where I simply didn’t connect with the person initially, and once I consciously started to match their pace and tonality I seemed to be able to develop rapport.  The key here is to be subtle and natural, otherwise the prospect will sense you are not being genuine.

Tell the Truth – Like most Salespeople, I have been faced with delivering some not so good news to clients.  I have found that even bad news can be delivered professionally.  If I don’t know something, I simply take great notes and tell my prospects and clients that I will find out and get back to them.  I make sure I follow up in a timely manner.  Clients have told me that they appreciate my honesty.  This just makes good business sense to me if you want your clients to trust you, you have to be trustworthy.





Remember the Sales Basics by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC


In recent years, sales professionals have faced loads of new challenges. Internet sales, in particular, have taken the market from manindex2y professionals and made it far more difficult to meet quotas. In addition, many industries that were once more service related have become more focused on price competitiveness. If you’re in sales, it’s critical to remember the basics that help you achieve your sales goals even when competing with a lower price and Internet sales.

  1. Retention. If you sell anything that offers the possibility for repeat sales, retaining your customers is critical. It costs much less to keep a customer than to look for a new one. Customer service, follow up and attention to details will help you keep the customers you have.
  1. Trust. If you are trustworthy, customers want to buy from you. Be sure that you follow some simple rules when it comes to dealing with customers. Tell the truth and represent your product accurately. Do what you say you’ll do. Follow up and readily provide information.
  1. Knowledge. Become an expert in your field. People want to buy from someone who knows more than they about the product they seek. They want you to be able to handle this part of their life from them, and they’ll often walk away if you don’t know the technical answers.
  1. Be a fixture in your industry and your community. The key to keeping a pipeline of prospects is to work to being the name that comes to mind when people in your territory need what you sell. Know your territory and invest in that community. The more people see your face and associate you with caring about your product, your customer and your community, the more likely they will be to seek you out when they need what you sell.
  1. Create connections. There is no substitute for being able to connect with people. Hone this skill so that you become someone people want to buy from. Believe in your product and be your authentic self, as most folks can spot a phony a mile away. It’s not about being a slick salesperson; it’s about a human connection that makes people want to do business with you.

All of these traits transcend industry and type of sales. When you can master these traits, you’ll be able to compete regardless of how competitive your industry becomes.


CASE STUDY: Sales Training

TOPIC: Sales Training


ASSESSMENT/SITUATION: During an introduction meeting, I was asked if I did sales training. I said that I did and proceeded to learn more about this need. Once I had all of the details of what they were looking for, I booked a follow-up appointment to meet with their VP & Director of Sales.  This program was for a group of newly-hired mortgage advisors who had never worked in a role that required them to be their own bosses. Some had sales experience, but the majority of them did not.  The VP and Director of Sales wanted them to learn sales skills, plus gain an understanding of what it is like to work as an entrepreneur.

ATHENA PARTNER MATCHING: On occasion, when the need is a fit for my offerings, I will submit my personal proposal.  This was the case for this client.

SOLUTION:  I designed an interactive program that included sales skills, networking skills (including a mock networking event), objection handling (including practice in handling their most common objections), designing their unique selling propositio, understanding their mindset and how it affects their results, the importance of tenacious self-leadership and continuous follow-up.  I included exercises that had them identify their centres of influence, as well as new and creative ways to prospect.  Both the VP and Director thought I hit the nail on the head with the program content.  We decided to run a pilot first before rolling out across Canada.

RESULTS: The feedback from the pilot program was fantastic; as a result, for the next 1.5 years, I delivered the program at locations across Canada.  I often get comments on LinkedIn from some of the attendees, thanking me for what they’ve learned and how implementing those techniques have made a difference for them in their sales results.

Confidentiality is very important to us at Athena Training and Consulting Inc.  The case studies outlined in the “Athena In Action” series are being shared as examples of the variety of solutions we have provided to our clients for over a decade.  The company names and individuals have been kept private in compliance with our Privacy Policy.

 About the Author:  Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

I have an unquenchable passion for life-long learning and continuous improvement. I am a Training Agent, Certified Coach and Sales trainer. I work with organizations to simplify the process and reduce the risk of outsourcing training, coaching and HR Consulting.  I provide a one-source solution to finding the “Perfect Fit” training solution for sustainable results.   I believe contributing to the strengthening of my client’s most powerful asset, their employees, is today’s most valuable investment.




Sales and Service Success by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC


As you move into the New Year, you’re likely looking for ways to make your business even more successful in 2016. You may be considering elaborate marketing plans or increasing your advertising budget for the next year. But, before you start spending loads of cash to increase business, remember to give some attention to how you treat the customers you already have.customerservice2

In today’s fast paced world, exceptional customer service is a rare luxury instead of the basic expectation it was in years past. You may be able to put your business head and shoulders above your competition just by making a few simple changes to your customer service strategies. Going the extra mile is far less expensive than a bigger marketing budget or new advertising strategy and it can yield even better results. Exceptional customer service yields repeat customers, which costs you far less than having to win new customers over and over due to attrition. Here are some simple ways to improve your customer service.

• Anticipate the customer’s desires. Think about the product or service you provide and consider what you would require from a business like yours in order for you to consider it exceptional service. Would you want shorter lines or telephone hold times? How about proactive calling before letters come in the mail? Would you like to be offered coffee while you wait for your appointment? All of these things are simple, but make customers feel special.

• Keep your promises. Did you tell the customer you would have their answer today? If so, it’s important to call that customer today even if you don’t have the answer. Let them know you didn’t forget, and give them a new estimation of when you can give them the answer they’re waiting for. When a customer knows you’re a person of your word, they will be loyal to your business.

• Thank your customers for their business. Many businesses fail to let their customers know they appreciate the business. When a customer knows you really value their business, they are loyal. Send holiday cards, and offer rewards to your customers. But, most of all, thank them for their patronage in person as often as you can.

All of these items are simple, yet all can have a big impact on how your customers view you. When they know that you value their business and will go the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction, you have the opportunity to create a lifelong customer.

Timeless in Sales

deliver persuasive presentations

Timeless in Sales

by Cindy Stradling

For many decades sales people were taught to create and deliver persuasive presentations that were often called “pitches.”  Sales training programs taught many closing techniques and would repeat the mantra – the ABC’s of selling = Always Be Closing.  Those days are gone and effective sales people of the 21st century involve a much more collaborative approach.  This approach includes focusing on the customer’s needs versus the old days of using manipulative tactics to close the sale so the sales person could meet their sales targets, regardless if it was a good fit for the customer.  I never sold like this, it simply didn’t fit with my personal values.

Like everything else in our society today, sales is evolving and changing.  Clients want to work with suppliers who are aligned with their values.  They want trusted advisors and organizations who are interested in win-win partnerships.

sales professional - persistent, good listening skills, authenticity, honesty, collaborationI have been in sales for 20+ years and I have noticed many differences and yet there are some things that have never changed.  People buy from people they trust and like, that has been my reality since my first cold call.  People want to know they can count on their salespeople to keep them informed and provide them with the best solutions possible.  I am pleasantly persistent when it comes to follow up and staying touch with both clients and prospective clients.  I think this is one of the keys to success in the long run.  Customers have told me the reason I won their business because I never went away when things got delayed or they were not ready to buy.  Often sales people will give up too soon. 

Good salespeople will always qualify a prospective client before starting to prospect them as a possible customer.  Effective selling involves asking great questions versus the “gift of the gab” approach of the sales people of the past.  Another thing that is never changed, in my opinion, is customers expect salespeople to be professional in their approach to business.  Although the business attire in some industries is more business casual than in the past, the sales person still needs to be professional.  They need to be punctual, respectful, articulate themselves well and listen intently to the needs of their customers. 

There are many new and different ways to meet and connect with potential clients today.   Social media has opened up many doors that would not have been accessible in the past.  A few of the younger salespeople I have spoken with do not use any other method than social media.  Seasoned sales people like myself need to incorporate social media as part of our business development strategy.  I still do cold calls and prospecting like I have since the beginning and for me it still works.  I have also started to work with LinkedIn as part of my business development strategies.  I challenged one of my students who didn’t believe in cold calling to give it a try, since she had never done it before.  We talked about what she would say and who she would call.  She reported back to me that it was easier than she thought and that the few people she did speak to her, didn’t yell at her (like she thought they would) and they were all very professional and one person asked her to call back in a few weeks that she was interested in speaking with her when she got back from her vacation.  She now incorporates cold calling as part of her business development strategy.

So what is my point to all this?  It is simply to say that some things are timeless in sales no matter what method(s) you use for prospecting and business development.

  • Professionalism
  • Persistent
  • Great listening skills
  • Collaboration for a win-win
  • Authenticity and honesty