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To hear a 30-min. interview with Sharon on Selling with Soul Version 2.0, go to this link: http://spotliteradio.com/?p=5526

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The Coaching Clinic workshop teaches you how to help your team achieve their personal best, and Essential Conversations for Developing Others teaches you how to have even difficult conversations with your team.


Selling with Soul

The book is featured on iUniverse bookstore this month and available as an eBook. See http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000519974/Selling-with-Soul.aspx. Also, check the media tab for links to recent interviews.


Author Archives: sparker-admin

Quick Tip

I recently taught a workshop to a group of experienced and very logical technical types who still believed that a clear, concise explanation of a product’s features and expected benefits was the most important selling skill. We had a lengthy discussion of why “telling ain’t selling.” Here are some of the key points to remember:

All buying decisions are first made emotionally; only when we know what we want do we look for logical rationalizations for why we should have it. Our customers are no different. If they want to buy from you because they trust you, or believe you “get them,” or are sure you are someone who will follow through, they will help you rationalize away differences in product and pricing. Of course you have to be competitive, but not the lowest. Just be reasonable.

Human beings are wired to contradict statements. No matter how great a talker you may be, a sales person’s opinions are not given much credibility. Selling is helping the buyer discover for themselves why our products and services are the ones they want to solve their problem or achieve their goal. The only mistake bigger than thinking you can talk someone into buying is thinking you can lower your price to become preferred. Buyers choose the product or service when they have a vision of how it will benefit them. When they can see their people using our stuff to solve their problem, we are helping them overcome their resistance to change and helping them realize the benefits.

When we lose a deal, it’s not because our product was missing a feature or our price was too high, it’s because we were out-sold. We can rationalize our loss any way we want to, but the fact is that someone else did a better job of leading the buyer to the decision and becoming the one they wanted to do business with. Get over it and do better next time by staying focused on the buyer’s goals. After all, it’s the goal or problem that got them looking in the first place and only a clear vision of how they can achieve it by working with us will overcome the power of staying with the status quo.
Selling is the most important job in our economy and the better we get at it, the more our customers , coworkers, and communities benefit. Be your best.


Are you playing “catch” or “fetch” with customers?


About Sparker

Sharon Parker successfully sold high-tech products and services for 25 years.  She is the author of Selling with Soul Version 2.0: Achieving Career Success without Sacrificing Personal and Spiritual Growth. She founded Sparker Coaching as a resource for sales professionals and teaches the proven, award-winning CustomerCentric Selling® process for growing sales revenue, as well as The Coaching Clinic®  to teach sales leaders how to  coach their people to achieve their personal best. Visit sparkercoaching.com for more sales tips.

Quick Tip

To begin this month’s sales tip, I want to share a “sales thought” from Frank Visgatis that really struck me.  Frank asked,

Are you playing “catch” or “fetch” with your prospects?

For years we have been educating salespeople about the advantages of being what we call the “Column A” vendor. This is the vendor whose capabilities not only align with the buyer’s requirements but also, ideally, includes unique capabilities that the seller has managed to weave into the buyer’s vision.
However, salespeople still ask us, “How do I know if I am the Column A vendor or not?”

While there are very few (if any) certainties in life or sales, there are definitely signs that we can look for that give us an indication as to where we might be.
One of the easiest ways to assess your standing with a prospect is to evaluate the “feel” of your interactions with them.

If you are the Column A vendor, it feels like you are “playing catch” with a friend. You toss something their way. They toss something back to you. Everyone is interested in making sure that the other side is treated fairly and curve balls are usually not part of the equation.

However, if you’re the Column B vendor, it usually feels a lot more like they are playing “fetch” with you. In other words, they are throwing things out and making you chase after them – “get me a proposal”, “I need it by the end of the week”, etc.

So, that “hot” prospect you have been working on…are you playing catch or fetch?

Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Frank came up with the perfect analogy to differentiate selling when you are in alignment and leading from selling when you are just reacting to whatever the prospect asks for, even if it’s absurd!  If you want to make sure you are playing catch, remember the core concept of quid pro quo. You can’t play catch with someone who won’t throw the ball back. Also, remember that “you can only sell to people who can buy” and you need to get above the power line in order to find someone who can, in fact, throw the ball back.  It means being aware of whether you and your prospect are in this together or whether you are just bouncing your ball off the garage door hoping they’ll decide to play.  Too many of us confuse activity with results. In sales, we get paid for results. Keeping busy, playing fetch with customers who we know in our gut are not planning to buy from us, may feel like working hard, but it’s not working smart.

Take the time to qualify and confirm along the way that you are still aligned with your customer’s goals. Review the behaviors common in each of the buying stages that tell you if you are leading or just a third bid. Make your efforts count and enjoy the success you experience.


Copyright © 2014 Sparker Coaching, All rights reserved.
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Happy New Year – Now what?

Most people start the new year tired and a few pounds heavier than they were before the holidays. That fuels us to make resolutions to be better, to be healthier, to be more successful. For most of us resolutions disappear from our consciousness faster than a plate of cookies disappears from my kitchen. So are they even worth it? Probably not.

Resolutions are not the same as goals, however. Goals have some important qualities that can help us change our behaviors. They include a realistic timeline, action plan, and vision of what the results will bring. Most of us know the acronym S.M.A.R.T. for setting goals: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based. More important than these, however, is the vision. You need to give an honest answer to the question, “why do I care”? What will be different in your life if you achieve the goal? What will your life look like if you don’t? If there is no compelling vision of what you will gain, the status quo will look a lot more attractive than the pain of change.

This is the same process our customers go through when they look at our offerings. We may offer lots of attractive (in our opinion) features and benefits, but if we don’t help the customer develop a vision, they don’t have a compelling reason to act. They need to be able to close their eyes and see their people using our stuff to make life better if they are going to give up the comfort of the familiar for a painful transition to something new.

Next, you have to keep the goal in front of you. At my gym there is a mural that says, “to achieve a goal you have to expect it of yourself.” Review it every day. Keep it front-of-mind. Pay attention.

Finally, sharing your goal with someone you trust can help you be more committed and can increase your odds for success.

The idea is to form a new habit by focusing on your goal. It’s a lot of work. Is it worth it? Yes. Research has proven that people with goals are consistently happier than people without them—even if they don’t achieve them. Why? Perhaps it’s that the human heart needs hope and aspirations. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that working our goals, unlike making resolutions, can help us be better people living happier lives.

Wishing you happiness, health, and success in 2014.

Seth Godin wrote in his book, Tribes:
The easiest thing is to react.
The second easiest is to respond.
The hardest thing is to initiate.

Are you asking the questions that initiate new thinking? Are you challenging yourself to initiate new behaviors? Are you setting your own standards and then living up to them? Leading requires the ability to initiate thoughts, plans, and actions. Be a leader.

“Resistance is futile.” So say the Borg on Star Trek. And while assimilation may not be inevitable, change is. We see three common types of resistance to change:
• If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
• Why mess with success?
• Don’t rock the boat.

I encounter these attitudes in my sales process workshops and often challenge salespeople by asking what they would lose if they changed. Sales people who have been successful for a long time and who hold the “why mess with success?” position often believe change will jeopardize existing customer relationships. They believe those relationships are the key to their continued success, even when they know their coaches are far below the power line that separates people who can spend money on capitol projects from those who are assigned a budget.

Business relationships today are based, as always, on trust. We earn that trust when we keep our word, follow-up as we say we will, and tell the truth. But in addition to trust, today’s buyers demand value. They expect us to help them develop the best approach to solving their problem. They want us to challenge them with new thinking at times and to broaden their knowledge base. And they want us to help them sell the right capabilities internally to the decision makers above the power line, while also building consensus at the user and implementer levels.

To sell our value, we are required to ask intelligent questions and listen to the answers. We are required to develop a clear picture (vision) in the customer’s mind of how life will be better with their people using our stuff to solve their problems. And, we are required to call on more people and different people in an account than we did in the past.

That’s change and it is inevitable. We will succeed when we meet it head-on, sharpen our skills, and practice our proven sales process.

Some questions for self-examination regarding change:
• If I don’t change my professional practices, what will be the likely result?
• As my customer environment changes, how will I keep pace?
• If my customer fears change, what lessons can I share with him or her to help them move forward?

As a salesperson, you are a leader and others will look to you as an example of how to handle change. Show them how to embrace it and benefit from it instead of joining the complainers around the water cooler. You will feel better about your work and will see more success as a result.

Happy Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday is approaching. Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, family, friends, love, celebration, tradition—and no presents!

I love that we have an official day each year to count our blessings, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if gratitude was a daily attitude?  As a salesperson and trainer, for example, I am grateful to be doing work I love and sharing my knowledge and experience with my peers. I’m grateful that I help my clients solve problems and achieve their goals–Except for Thursdays. You see, my “sacred space” for prospecting is Thursday morning. That’s when I have time carved into my calendar exclusively for the purpose of reaching out to potential new clients. I love what I do, but on Thursday morning? I grumble and stall and procrastinate and reach for the snooze alarm one more time and…Well, you get the idea.

Prospecting is painful and I know why it’s so hard for me to do. When I’m reaching out to people who do not know me, I’m not Sharon who does her best for her clients. I’m automatically in the sales “penalty” box. The stereotype of salespeople that permeates our collective thinking includes words like pushy, self-interested, manipulative, dishonest, untrustworthy. That stereotype makes the people I’m calling quick to reject me. I get fifteen seconds or less to differentiate myself from the dozens of other calls they get each week from people hoping to sell them something.  It doesn’t matter whether my services are exactly what could help them achieve their goal if I can’t get out of that penalty box fast enough to have a conversation with them, person to person, that gets their attention.  To do that I have to open with a question that is likely to be in line with their concerns. Since I call on sales executives, my openings include questions about growing market share, decreasing discounting, increasing forecast accuracy, and other areas of concern to any manager charged with increasing sales. Unless they have some reason to think I understand their concerns and may be able to help, why would they take time from their crazy-busy day to talk with a stranger?

No matter what product or service you sell, can you put yourself in the head of your ideal customer and understand what motivates them? How are they measured? What constitutes success? If you can’t, you are not likely to get their interest in the few seconds they give you.  It’s not just about making the effort, although that is step number one.  As one of the core concepts of CustomerCentric Selling teaches, “it’s not where you show up but what you say when you get there” that determines whether you’ll be successful in finding alignment with your prospect.

In the meantime, one of the things I’m grateful for this year is that Thanksgiving Day falls on a Thursday, giving me an excellent excuse for putting off my prospecting until next week.  : )

May your holiday be filled with happiness.  Sharon

Passion is essential for a business or organization to thrive whether it’s a corporation, a not-for-profit, or your own entrepreneurial business.

This week’s blog is published in Elephant, the online journal for conscious living, and here is the link:  http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/10/why-your-business-needs-passion-to-thrive.



    Me, too. But recognize that your vote counts and that every action we take has an effect on others. When we conduct ourselves with integrity first in business, we influence others to do the same. When we live our lives according to our core values, we spread that harmony everywhere we go. When we make a purchase we are casting a vote for the suppliers we choose, whether it’s for fresh food instead of processed or products that are energy-efficient. The laws of physics state that every reaction creates and opposite and equal reaction, but in the laws of human community I would argue that every action creates a ripple effect through the space we share.  Kindness fosters more kindness. Gratitude fosters an attitude of counting our blessings in the people around us. Courage to live our convictions encourages others to do the same.  We are not separate, but connected by the earth we share and an economy that has truly become global. Let’s put our best foot forward. After all, every action is a vote.

This week’s blog is the article from the September 2012 Sparker Coaching newsletter and talks about understanding your customer’s decisions.  To subscribe to the newsletter, fill out the box in the side panel.  Enjoy!

Customers confound us at times by saying or doing things that make no sense to us. We ask ourselves, “What is he thinking?”  Good question. And speaking of questions, that’s the best way to understand it:  Ask.

As business professionals we have to right to ask any question we feel necessary to do our job and to learn any information we need in order to do our best job for the customer. We may hesitate because a nagging voice in our heads tells us to mind our own business, but when we ask good questions, we are minding our business, as well as making that extra effort to help a customer get what they want.

Here’s an example:  A customer has discussed upgrading a production line in order to increase their manufacturing output.  The two of you have agreed on which equipment items and software might allow him to achieve that goal and have discussed the value he can expect to receive. Just as you are thinking you are on the brink of an order, he stops returning your calls and when you finally reach him, tells you he’s decided to hold off on this project for awhile.  What is he thinking?

It seems obvious that he needs this project and it can be cost-justified.  Obvious to  you, that is. But what may be lurking behind his reluctance to move ahead is that he is not convinced he’ll see all the value you talked about.  Maybe the “data” you worked from wasn’t his but was based on a marketing brochure that promised this new equipment would improve speeds and yields and solve world hunger.  He has been burned before by sales people who over-promise and under-deliver and has his doubts.  For you to win this opportunity, you need to co-create with him a clear vision of his people using your equipment to solve his problem. He needs to be able to articulate the plan even after you leave the room. If he doesn’t have a vision of the results and the value he’ll receive, why would he take on the pain of change? Better to just put the whole thing off a little longer.

Or you’ve been working with a customer for months and he appears to be standardized on your offerings.  You feel confident that you “own” this account. Then you find out he’s just placed an order with your competitor for items you normally supply. What is he thinking? While you may believe you have been delivering good service and value to the customer, he’s checking his options. Is he upset about a recent transaction? Is he dissatisfied with the level of customer service he gets from the inside staff? Has he decided you have been over-charging him?  The only way you will know is to ask the questions, not in a confrontational way, but in an open and above-board attempt to understand what you need to improve. The better you understand the customer and his concerns, the stronger your position as his supplier.  It does no good to ignore this action or to tell yourself it’s a fluke. It’s a red flag and you need to make the effort to professionally and unemotionally understand it.

Our customers have good reasons for what they do and say, even if they aren’t apparent to us. Instead of shaking our heads and marveling at what appears to us to be short-sighted or even plain wrong, we need to seize the opportunity to investigate. Ask the questions as a professional dedicated to understanding the customer and learn from the answers.

In his book, What Matters Now, Gary Hamel lists five (5) issues as paramount for whether an organization will thrive in the coming years:

  • values
  • innovation
  • adaptability
  • passion
  • ideology

I blogged about values and innovation earlier. This week I want to talk about adaptability.

Adaptability is a great gift in a world that is constantly changing. Adapting to changes in the company, changes in management, changes in the marketplace and doing it with grace is key for a company that wants to lead its market.  But successfully adapting requires that we first see the changes as they are developing.

Hindsight is useless. What we need in the present is broad sight. So much sales advice uses examples from the animal world of predators telling us we need the eyes of an eagle, the speed of a cheetah, and the ability to stay in constant motion like a shark with only dinner on its mind.  But when it comes to adaptability,  we need to take a lesson from the prey of the world. There’s a reason deer and antelopes and even field mice survive in a world of predators. They use broad vision. Broad vision  surveys the field and notices anything out of place or unexpected, picks up movement and then lasers in to identify it,  and only then determines what response is required.
Similarly, we need to see what our customers are doing and how they are changing. We need to understand where they are investing resources and where they are cutting back. We need to look at the relative positions of our competitors with a customer to see if there has been a shift recently and then to understand why.

Did your competitor just quietly pick up an order for a commodity that you had been supplying? Is this the start of a trend? What motivated that customer to change? Your first thought may be “price,” but that’s often not the deciding factor. Ease of doing business? Response times?  Where are the gaps in your customer service that leave you vulnerable?

Like a deer at the edge of a forest surveying a broad open field before stepping out into it, we need to take the broad view and make the assessment. Then, when we respond, we do it in a timely manner with confidence and grace.

Photo from Wikipedia