Wednesday, October 31, 2007

10 Wall Street Sales Secrets (Part I)

Since I've started writing this blog I've mainly been focusing on my current venture, technology, etc. I haven't really dug down deep and talked about many of my past experiences, especially about my time on Wall Street.

I was only on "the street" for a few years as an analyst/broker, but I learned my fair share about what it takes to succeed in that business. Reason being, I was working through the worst Bear Market we've seen since the depression.

While everybody was socking their money away under their mattresses, I was on the phone, cold calling and telling investors that now was the time to be buying stocks (considering the market has doubled since then, I guess I was right). Needless to say it was an uphill battle, but it taught me some of the most valuable sales secrets Wall Street has to offer. Secrets that enabled me to open more new accounts than even the most seasoned professionals in my firm.

I guess these aren't really "secrets", they're more like sales tactics that have been proven to work. I didn't invent these, but I made it my business to master them.

And now, in the spirit of blogging and open communication I'm going to pass on these proven, battle-tested sales strategies to all those who care to learn. So whether you're a broker on Wall Street selling stock or a door to door salesman hocking vacuum cleaners, these tips will help you take your business to the next level.

So here goes...

1. Welcome and Expect the Rejection - I know that this may sound counterintuitive to anyone who believes in the law of positive attraction. However, the reality of the situation is that out of the new accounts you've landed over the years, 90% of them probably didn't say "yes" the first time you asked them for the order. It's just a fact.

So when you go in there to land a new account, walk in there expecting them to say "no" right away. Because if you go in there assuming they'll say "yes", and when they don't, you'll not only be unprepared for the oncoming "verbal wrestling match", but you'll also psych yourself out wondering why they said "no" to begin with.

But if you go in there expecting them to say "no" then you'll be ready to follow up with appropriate questions and rebuttals. And that's when deals get closed - not after the first 10 seconds of your presentation, but rather after the 1 hour conversation you have with the prospect.

2. Just Listen - All too often I see novice salesmen who are so eager to "say the right thing" or tell the prospect just one more feature about their product that they don't simply shut-up and listen to what the potential client is telling them.

You have two ears and one mouth, you should listen twice as much as you speak.

Even if you're not totally buying into what the prospect is telling you (more on this in a minute), just listening and not chewing their ear off makes them think that you really care about them and what they have to say. This is so important because this is how you go from having a client to having a friend - and at the end of the day, people don't fire friends.

3. They're all Liars! - You might be scratching your head right now wondering why I just told you to listen to your prospects, but then in the next breath I'm calling them liars.

Well, let me explain...

They're not really "liars" in the sense that they're trying to trick or deceive you. But they are lying to you (and to themselves) when they give lame excuses for why they can't buy what you're selling. Excuses like:

- "I don't have money"
- "I have to talk to my wife first"
- "I'll think about it and call you back"

Those are all lame excuses...and it doesn't mean that they're simply "not interested".

In salesman's vocabulary, "not interested" really means "not convinced". Because if you did your job of pre-qualifying these prospects properly then you should know if they have money or not or if they are the decision maker for this type of transaction.

So when they use these excuses, listen to them because they might inadvertently tell you what you'll have to say to close them, but assume that for the most part they're just making excuses and lying to you.

By keeping with this mentality you won't get bogged down trying to give them advice on how to "come up with the money". Instead you'll start talking about the benefits of your product and why they can't live without it. And that my friend is how you close new accounts!

(NOTE: The first 3 Sales Secrets were basic principles, now we'll get into specific tactics)

4. Completely Ignore the First 3 Objections - That's right, this is another one of those "contradictory" statements when taken at face value. Let me explain...

If you're pitching a guy who gets lots of sales calls everyday - procurement managers, CEO's, individual investors, etc. - then they're conditioned to screen out the weak salesmen. Don't get me wrong, it's not like they sit there and go "I'm only going to buy from the best salesmen", but at the end of the day, it's the best salesmen who close the deals.

So chances are, his first 3 objections are just standard objections he gives to every salesman that calls. Most will go, "Ok sir, I'll call you back down the road." But that's not what he wants to hear...people are always looking for ways to make or save money. If you have a good product and you really believe in it, then you'd be doing this customer a HUGE disservice by not continuing to try and pitch him.

When I was recommending stocks I REALLY believed in what I was doing and that's why I would stay on the phone and pound the table until I got the deal. And that brings me to my next tactic...

5. Click or Close - This is an old Wall Street saying and I'm sure it applies to other sales jobs as well. The phrase basically means that the guy has to either hang up the phone on you (the "click") or open an account with you (the "close").

This is a tough principle to stick to but it's the difference between a million dollar producer (a broker who earns $1 million per year in commissions) and a guy who takes home less than $100k a year on Wall Street. It was the one characteristic I saw the million dollar producers consistently display.

They all had different sales pitches, they all had different ways of asking for the order, and they all even had different ways of approaching the market - but what they ALL had in common was the ability to stay on the phone no matter what. They would stay on a single sales call for over an hour (sometimes they got the account and sometimes they didn't) and would stay on for another hour if the guy let them. It was an amazing display of discipline and it paid off ten-fold when compared to the guys who would hang up after 3 or 4 objections.

Once you overcome the psychological barriers of rejection, this discipline is easy to put into practice and could mean millions in extra income for your firm and family.

Part II coming soon...

I feel that this is enough for one blog post - there's a lot of information to digest up there. Would love any and all feedback you might have so feel free to comment or e-mail me.

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I Won! And so did children across the world...

So, it looks like I was one of the winners for the contest Shel Israel was holding last week.

It started out as a Facebook flyer test and it turned into over $1500 being raised for Room to Read. This money may not seem like a large sum here in the States, but in Sri Lanka it could build more than half a library, or put a number of Nepalese children through school for a year.

I'm honored to have been part of this process and in return I not only got 2 hours of consulting time from Shel (who I'm a huge fan of), but I also got to do something good for an amazing organization.

This "contest", if it could even be called that, inspired me so much that I'm actively speaking with my partners on how we can use our web sites, blogs and newsletters to help this organization and others like it. So I want to put it out there to other bloggers reading this (especially my NYC blogging brethren) - this amazing medium we have and the ability to self-publish must not be used solely for selfish reasons.

We should be focusing on "self-less" publishing as well.

So if you have it in you to write posts about your company's current marketing strategy, or a new product you're launching, then take some extra time to write a post about a charity that you'd like to get involved in. And it doesn't have to be a global charity like Room to Read, there are plenty right here in New York that deserve our attention too.

Look at what Fred Wilson has been doing with Donor's Choose.

Or check out New York Magazines list of local organizations that could use our help.

If Shel was able to raise $1500 in one week by himself, what could everybody in the nextNY community raise together over the course of a month or two? $15,000? $150,000?

I don't know the answer - but I do know that with the collective creativity, brain power and reach of this community, something very special could happen here.

I'm definitely going to be doing plenty on my end to contribute to some of these causes. But if anyone is inclined to get the ball rolling on something like this on a larger scale, I'd be happy to help in any way I can. Would love to hear your thoughts - I can be reached at: wayne at tickerhound dot com.

Microsoft OneNote = AMAZING!

For starters, let me just say that on principle I'd never call any software that Microsoft comes out with "AMAZING"...up until now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Mac guy or anything - I've been a die hard Windows users since 3.0. But I think all die hard Windows users will agree that Microsoft isn't the greatest software company in the world. It might be the biggest, richest, etc., but the software they produce is less than stellar.

Windows Vista is a prime example. A day doesn't go by where I don't kick myself for not getting XP installed on my new ThinkPad. It's buggy, unstable, lacks a lot of the usability features that make Macs great, etc. etc.

However, this new version of Microsoft Office is off the hook!

Not so much for what they did with the standard set of tools (utility bar, easy document integration, etc.), but for a simple program that has changed my work life in a profound way - Microsoft OneNote.

This little baby made me toss my stacks of yellow legal pads in the garbage. It's the equivalent of a yellow legal pad on steroids.

Now I can have several note books in front of me at the same time - work, personal, brain storming, etc. And within those notebooks I can have different sections - Personal: cook books, blog posts, etc. Then within each section I can have various page that are also segmented however I want.

It's super easy to add, rearrange, and reformat whole chunks of text - you can even drag them off the page and put them into another application.

It saves as you type so you never have to worry about it crashing and losing all of your data. And unlike most Microsoft products, it runs super fast - the memory footprint is only about 4,900 K.

I use this thing for every little task, whether it be for when I'm talking to vendors and I need to keep notes, or when I'm compiling a task list for my really is very useful, usable, well designed and so "non-Microsoft" that I'm surprised that it wasn't copied off of something Apple already put out.

In fact I wouldn't even be writing this post if it weren't for the fact that it came out of camp Microsoft - if it had been an Apple product I wouldn't just chalked it up as another reason I'm thinking of jumping ship.

So score 1 for Redmond...great job guys!

Here's some advice for Bomber (Balmer):

I'd go so far as to argue that they completely replace Notepad with this product. Notepad is the same as it has been since the first version of Windows that carried innovation whatsoever. Let one of your two million developers redesign the Notepad app along the same lines as this and you'll keep a few extra users around.

Then apply the same principles you put into building this application into all the others you build from here on aint rocket science guys: make useful, usable products that help people work smarter...then you'll win. :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Portable Social Networks

Been thinking about this topic a lot lately...

In the wake of the tremendous success Facebook's application platform has had, many people have been wondering what the next "big" application platform will be. It seems like Facebook is doing for the web what Microsoft did for the desktop -- so in order to understand what might come next, we need to recognize why these companies were successful to begin with.

Facebook and Microsoft were successful because their platforms had 3 key characteristics:

1. Created an easy to use API (Application Programming Interface).
2. Opened up their system to anyone who wanted to build on it - no partnering necessary.
3. Created an effective distribution mechanism (Facebook really nailed this more than Microsoft ever did).

So what's next?

Many argue that the web itself is the next great application platform. However, I think it's clear that in order for this to happen there needs to be some type of social network weaved into the fabric of the web. That's the only way the crucial distribution component will work -- developers are going to need a frictionless mechanism for promoting and distributing their software.

Rockefeller had it right -- it didn't matter if you hit oil, if you couldn't distribute it then you couldn't make money. So he focused on distribution...and the rest is history.

So what could be done to make this vision of frictionless distribution occur on the web?

Well, the first thing we'd need is a portable social network - or a network that wasn't bound to a particular web site. It would require a standard to be developed for social networks, much like the standards that were developed around SMTP (e-mail), HTTP (web sites), FTP (files), etc.

Brian Oberkirch recently wrote one of the most compelling outlines I've seen for the necessary "ingredients" in a portable social network. Really amazing stuff there.

But I don't know how much of a reality this vision will become. OpenID has been around for a while now and even though more and more sites are becoming OpenID compatible, we're still not seeing a lot of traction.

I think we'll see the same when it comes to creating open social networks.

Maybe it would take the backing of a major internet company to get this off the ground, but then again Microsoft had tried pushing the Passport system for quite some time before raising the white flag last year.

We'll just have to wait and see, but if a distributed social networking platform were created and reached some level of considerable scale then I think we'd be seeing the advent of "Web 3.0" (I know, I hate using the version numbers for the web too).