Your success… made possible with the right tools!
by Linda Fierman

Refining and Polishing Your Sales, Presentation and Negotiation Skills



Better Discovery is the Key
by Linda Fierman

The consultative selling model is becoming widely used by salespeople in all industries for one simple reason: it works.  At the heart of the consultative sale is the Discovery Process.  This phase of the sales cycle gives the consultant the necessary information to formulate the best solution and present it in a tightly targeted presentation.  Being successful in Discovery requires active listening and top notch probing skills.  Even experienced salespeople who do a good job of obtaining empirical (factual) data can neglect to probe for the emotional components that are a key part of the decision making  process.

In a business to business sale the motivation of the buyer is either to achieve an improvement or gain, or to mitigate loss or pain.  Sometimes it can be both. The savvy sales consultant probes to uncover the underlying motivations of ALL of the players involved in the buy decision.

Sometimes the other party is reserved or uncommunicative and doesn’t fully answer your question.  In that case, rely on inquiry extenders such as ‘what if..’, ‘tell me more’, ‘how so?’ to obtain the additional information you need.

Finally, because mis-understandings can easily occur, I find it helpful to use frequent summary statements.  I paraphrase  what I think I’ve heard and ask for clarification of any terms that might be vague or ambiguous.

Follow these  easy-to-implement ideas and your ‘discovery’ is sure to yield better results.




Can a Nibble Become a Big Bite?
by Linda Fierman

In negotiating there is a technique (ploy) known as the ‘nibble’.  After the negotiation is concluded and both sides are relieved to have reached an agreement, one side attempts to grab an extra concession by presenting it as an afterthought.  The request may be preceded with casual language such as “Oh, and you won’t mind if…”.   At this point, the other party is weary and may just give in.

That would be a mistake .  The response to any ploy sets precedence and the savvy negotiator is always alert for clues about how his counterpart behaves.  Second, there is a principle in negotiating that recommends receiving something for every concession that you give.  A better response to the nibble would be to alert the other party that you regard it as an invitation to further negotiation.  At the very least, you can delay your answer to the request until you’ve had time to think about it.

I have seen the nibble at work in the hands of experienced negotiators and they are able to pull it off very smoothly.  Just recently, I presented the concept to a seminar group of seasoned business professionals.  I warned them this could happen, showed a short video which demonstrated the technique, and then watched in amazement as one member (subsequently) successfully employed the nibble against three participants at the conclusion of a business simulation.

Uber coach Nick Saban exhorts his team to play the full sixty minutes on the football field and to take nothing for granted.  The same advice can be applied to negotiating.   Be alert, stick to your plan, don’t make unverified assumptions, and negotiate every point fairly and thoroughly, through the finish.


Part of the Team or Part of the Problem?
by Linda Fierman

Recently I developed and delivered a short seminar on ‘Professional Communication’ in the workplace for the support staff in a rising star law firm in the Atlanta area.  We covered a lot of information but two points generated quite a bit of conversation.
1) Appearance guidelines issued by your company are more than just a suggestion, you really need to follow them.  Think of it this way: if you joined a club softball team and everyone wore dark blue tee shirts with black pants, you wouldn’t wear a red tee just because that color looked better on you.  You are part of a team. The same principle applies at your office/team.
2) Don’t interrupt conversations or ambush people at their desk when you have a comment or question. Remember when your momma taught you “Knock First” and “Don’t Interrupt when Others are Speaking”?  Nothing’s changed…. those are still the prevailing rules for professional behavior.  If it’s truly an emergency, excuse yourself first before speaking, concluding with a “thank you, sorry to have had to intrude”

Remember these points and you’re on your way to being a valued member of the team.

To Memorize or Not
by Linda Fierman

Public speaking really kicks up the anxiety meter for many people. They want to sound natural, knowledgeable, but above all, confident. In my experience as a trainer and coach, business professionals vacillate on whether or not memorizing their speech can achieve those results. They worry that given free rein, they will wander, ramble or the speaker’s worst nightmare-deer in the
headlights syndrome.  Even very smart people, with a trail of academic letters after their name, are genuinely concerned about their ability to deliver a dozen sentences without committing a contextual or grammatical gaffe. So, will memorizing solve the problem?

For most people, memorizing a presentation creates more problems than it solves. First, there is the preparation time; there are a variety of methods people use, but they are all time-consuming. Additional complications occur during the presentation, itself. If the speaker should forget a phrase, or even a specific word, panic ensues. The expectation of an exact delivery becomes a further source of stress and creates more anxiety, not less.

Even worse, this technique shifts the focus to concentrating on strings of words, rather than the big ideas. That can cause a disconnect between the speaker and his audience. An audience will forgive almost anything other than apparent detachment on the part of the speaker.

A better approach is to block out your main ideas, reduce them to key word prompts on index cards and practice with these until you’ve achieved a good flow. I sometimes refer to the practice as a ‘talk-through’ and it’s usually best if you can practice at least a couple of times with a partner. Confine your memorized material to a short intro and/or a closing phrase, but even here, a well ’read’ quote won’t diminish your effectiveness. This system works whether or
not you’ll have a visual aid such as Power Point to cue you.

Proper prep really does increase your chances of delivering a smooth presentation. Concentrate your efforts on remembering the key points, rather than the exact words, and you’ll deliver just what your audience needs.


It’s Just Lunch
by Linda Fierman

“It’s Just Lunch” is not only the name of the national dating service, it can be a useful marketing tool in industries that require or appreciate a continuous stream of subject matter expertise (SME).

The oft heard lament: “but my customers require education to understand this new technique, product, service” can really work to your advantage.  Bringing information to a prospect is an especially productive component of value added selling: you’re establishing credibility while laying the foundation for future sales.

Let’s examine the headline and what it implies. The inference is that only a small amount of time is being used for this meeting and that it’s time typically spent away from work, anyway.  This is especially attractive in an economy where people are tasked with “doing more with less”, ‘time’ frequently being a common casualty in this paradigm.

There are a couple of different ways to approach this learning session.  One is to demonstrate your product offering and explain applications in which it would be useful.  A second way is to provide new, general, information that is relevant to the audience and is also self-serving (has a tie to your product or service).  An example would be an engineering company presenting – to members of an architectural firm – results of a market survey regarding new trends in commercial building design.  This is immediately followed with a demonstration of how a new structural component gives more flexibility in manipulation of materials.   The projects that would make use of this might not even be on the drawing board yet, but the seed has been planted.

Financially this should make sense for you.  Target a local prospect or a several out-of-town companies when you plan to travel.  Their conference room is your seminar location.  You don’t actually have to provide the lunch; coffee, dessert and fruit or yogurt would suffice.  If you do bring in food, keep it inexpensive and tasty but not difficult to eat (nix the barbecue with special sauce).

Here are a few items to ensure the success of your Lunch & Learn.

1) Make sure the topic is relevant

2) Use an engaging speaker who can relate to the audience

3) Observe the time period


If you’re new to this, experiment with hosting a handful of these lunches in the coming year.  Keep track of your results but remember that this effort could take some time to bear fruit.


Got a Niche?
by Linda Fierman

According to Webster, one definition of ‘niche’ is “ideal position” and that’s the one that matters whether you’re trying to find your way in life or trying to find a way to sell a comparatively higher priced product or service.

Over a decade ago, amid consumer complaints over rising medical costs, the concept of ‘concierge’ medical care was born.   Patients receive some nice perks: less time in the waiting room, more face time per visit, promptly returned calls, etc.  In return, the docs receive an annual retainer fee, paid directly by the patient.  So how is that working out in this current financial environment?  The January 2012 issue of American Medical News carried a report by one of the larger concierge groups, MDVIP, citing a 92% retention rate among clients.  How? Why? These physicians were able to connect with their niche; they changed the offering of their standard product and found buyers that appreciate that difference.

Commanding a premium price is a three-step process:

  • Differentiate the offering
  • Identify the audience
  • Articulate the benefits


Differentiate yourself from your competition with a unique selling proposition (USP).  You must have a clear understanding of the distinctive features you provide, identify the audience that would benefit from them and be able to articulate those differences in your marketing and sales efforts.

How can you be sure that your customers really do value the differentiation you bring to the table?  One quick, easy-to-implement test lies in the answer to this question: “Are your target customers willing to pay a premium for it?”  If not, the product features you’re describing may be cool, interesting, and even desirable but they won’t create or support a niche market for you.
So, got your niche? Get an awareness and appreciation of what sets you apart!

Negotiating Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss
by Linda Fierman

NPR Interview: The Next Cool Thing segment by Colin Maiorano.

Linda Fierman Speaking from Experience about Negotiating Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss.

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Negotiating: Avoiding the Deadly Deadlock
by Linda Fierman

Public Speaking: Capturing and Holding Your Audience’s Attention
by Linda Fierman

Adding Value to the Sale
by Linda Fierman

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