Fake Estate Sales Exposed

Most estate sales are run by reputable folks who are on the up and up and wouldn’t dream of defrauding an unsuspecting shopper. Unfortunately, there are a small percentage of tag sales that are less than trustworthy.

There are plenty of tales of events that advertise to the public promising all sorts of objects like Baccarat crystal or Mont Blank pens for sale, and then when the unsuspecting folks arrive looking for these collectible trinkets–they are not there or are claimed to be sold. These bait-and-switch events attempt to lure crowds in to try to make a sale on mediocre goods that don’t actually exist.

In other in instances, tag sales are advertised in the newspaper as the estate of 90 year old granny with a lifetime of goodies in the attic. When you get there, you realize that it’s no such thing and they are selling junky goods.

Another downer in terms of phony estate sales, are sellers trying to pass off bogus items for the real deal. If you see a too good to be true price on a supposed Tiffany lamp, you can pretty well be sure it’s a counterfeit. Antique furniture is another place where scams run large because most buyers don’t know what they are looking for to ensure its authenticity. You can be sure that older furniture wasn’t put together with glue, staples, particle board or shiny screws. It’s important to educate yourself on the construction of furniture through time so you can attempt to determine real value.

Designer items such as hand bags, wrist watches and jewelry are unfortunately something that are commonly fakes at estate sales, so beware. A lot of time the seller is unsuspecting and doesn’t realize it herself. Be sure to ask for a certificate of authenticity or a receipt whenever possible to confirm that a designer item is authentic.

Art is also something that can notoriously be forged, so take care when buying it at an estate sale. Unless the claim is backed by some authoritative proof to show evidence that the painting truly is Great Uncle Frank’s Jackson Pollack painting, you better be ready to bring a professional along with you to validate the piece for you. In some instances, you can buy the piece with the ability to return it if it is discovered to not be what it has been advertised.

If you want to avoid being scammed, go to estate sales run by highly regarded estate sales liquidators who have insurance and are bonded to protect their business. You can check the Better Business Bureau or references to ensure the sales company is on the up and up. When attending an estate sale run by the family, things certainly get trickier and you open yourself up a bit more for the opportunity for fraud. Remember, if your gut tells you something doesn’t exactly feel right, then it’s probably a good time to walk away before spending your hard earned cash.

If you are a collector of a particular item such as vintage glass, jewelry or art, then make it your business to educate yourself so that you can spot fakes quickly or bring an experienced friend with you to help you out. Don’t just buy an estate sale without checking carefully that the item is truly what it is!

5 Tips for Improving Performance in Small Sales Teams

In my years of experience in sales and sales management, I have observed many small and medium sized sales teams. Often, they struggle to perform at capacity and hit their goals and it’s frequently a sales management issue. Sometimes it’s because the CEO or business owner is the de facto sales manager and is wearing many hats. They are often just too busy running their business or spread too thin. Sometimes they’re the technical experts in their field and their expertise and time is being used to improve products, systems or services. It’s sometimes because a top performing sales person was promoted into a sales management role and their strength lies in salesmanship and delivering revenue to the business personally rather than in a broad sense. Below are five things you can do to improve sales management in your company now.

1. Planning

Many business owners have at best a rudimentary sales plan. If they do have one, often times it consists of higher and higher sales goals, without accounting for what will drive that new business. Will a new product line be added, a new market be opened or new additions made to the sales team? Will the company be able to support the added expense while markets are opened and new sales people trained? How much risk will the company bear? A good but simple sales plan takes this into consideration. Takeaway: Make a better sales plan with concrete steps to get to the desired goal.

2. Modernize

There are many new technologies that make it easier to interact with prospects. Among them are CRM systems, collaboration tools, the cloud, dialers, email tracking, prospect and customer information systems. Existing systems are being upgraded all the time with the newest capabilities. All are designed to more efficiently and effectively reach more buyers, disseminate information, warm them up and help make sales. Social media platforms allow a business to extend its reach inexpensively and makes your business more visible to search engines such as Google.com. Takeaway: Evaluate new technologies on a regular basis to make sure you are keeping up and modernize as needed.

3. Training

Training sales people serves three purposes. The first is that it provides them an opportunity to hone and refresh their skills. The second is that it reminds them that performance is important and that expectations for them performing well are high. The third is that it shows a willingness to invest in them and that they are part of the long term plan for the organization. Takeaway: Make sure you offer training to your sales people every year (a sharp axe cuts better than a dull one).

4. Lead Generation

All businesses need sales and most small and medium sized businesses are subject to the feast/famine paradigm. When they’re busy, the first thing that gets pushed aside is prospecting for new business. Until business slows down. Then there’s a flurry of sales activity and soon business is back where it should be. For a while. Most small businesses don’t have bandwidth to prospect effectively in a consistent way.

Lists should be highly targeted and refreshed regularly. Technology should be used and a proven process followed. The technology should reinforce the process rather than detract from it. Top management should enforce the use of the technology and following of the process. Utilize social media and blogging to widen your reach inexpensively. Finally, no one can be an expert on everything so get help from the professionals when needed. Takeaway: Make prospecting part of the company routine and culture and call in the experts when needed!

5. Measurement

You get what you measure is the old adage and it’s mostly true. The challenge is top management often has a hard time pinning down the exact actions, activities and behaviors they are trying to encourage and measure. Here’s a practical example. Maybe top management believes that offering free webinars will increase sales since it worked well in the past. So the goal is to run well attended webinars.

How will these webinars be promoted to prospects and clients? Will a set of emails be sent, starting a few weeks before the first webinar? Then a prospect list with email addresses will need to be purchased and loaded and a compelling email invitation created.

Will prospects be called and told about the webinars? Then phone numbers will be necessary, a script will need to be created and a person designated to make the calls. To track call results, an activity report should be created and run on a regular basis to test the messaging, to make sure the calls are being made and to analyze the prospect responses. Will the report be grouped by prospect type (or industry or state or city or source)? Then that data will need to be captured or imported for each prospect.

Finally, reports should measure the success of each webinar, so that results can be tabulated. How many people registered and attended are important to measure, as well as what happened to the prospect once the webinar was complete to determine the ROI. Takeaway: Create reports that measure actions, activities and behaviors that drive sales success, run them regularly and share the results.

Five Proven Sales Tips to Manage Objections

Many sales have been lost because a sales representative did not know how respond to a prospect’s first objection. The sales representative may either: allow the objection to stand with a “thank you” and a sincere statement of follow-up, or put the potential customer on the defensive with a statement that could seem argumentative. Both choices are bad for business because they do not result in a sale. Often, the objection the prospect gives is not even their true reason for not buying. To get to the real reason, consider the following five sales tips for managing objections.

  1. Recognize all objections are questions in disguise. Try turning the objection into a question by stating, “That brings up a question. The question is <paraphrase their objection statement as a question>? Is that the question?” This will result in a simple yes or no or they will rephrase the question so the sales representative can answer it. If they say no, proceed with asking them what the question is in their words. As an example, the prospect says, “This sounds great; I just need to think it over.” Sales representative responds “That brings up a question, the question is there are a few key points you may be unsure of. Is that the question?” If they say yes, then now the sales representative has opened a dialogue. If they say no, respond with “What specific questions are on your mind that you need to think about?”
  2. Keep the dialogue alive with the “obviously you” technique to stay on track. This technique works especially well with emotional objections. Listen for emotional cues which include always, never, every time. Then respond with “Obviously you have a reason for saying that. Do you mind if I ask what that is?”
  3. Always ask questions that will get the prospect talkingrather than giving short “Yes/No” answers. The more the prospect talks the more is learned about their business problems. Even the best sales representative cannot sell a solution if the problem or pain is not known in advance. Knowing the customer needs makes it easier to customize the sales message.
  4. Stay on track using the “just suppose” technique. Do not let an objection derail the sales process. Instead create a scenario that takes the current objection out of the picture. For example if the customer considers the price too high rather than cut the price, say something like “Just suppose that price was not a consideration, are the benefits I have shown you of value?”. This is designed to smoke out the real objection and keep the sales discussion on track as it encourages dialogue. Amateurs often use this to close the sale with phrases like “If I could meet your price, would you buy today?” This pushes a prospect who may be only using the price objection as a smokescreen or who cannot clearly see the benefits.
  5. Never “but” the customer. Use of the words “but” or “however” often sounds like rationalization for a poor solution or the beginning of another side to an argument. Instead of telling the customer why they are wrong, use an “and” question such as “And why do you say that (or feel that way)?” The word “and” conveys a partnership message rather than a pending argument.

In summary, prepare for objections in advance of meetings. Think of all the potential objections the prospect may come up with and determine the best way to handle each. Then practice managing those objections in role plays with others before meeting with the potential customer.

Use the five sales tips for managing objections to find the true reason the prospect is hesitant to buy. Do not just leave a sale on the table by accepting the first objection. Instead, learn to manage objections and ask the right questions to increase sales rather than lose them.