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Coaches Diary: Alec Gets To Grips with the Complete Sales Process


In this week's casebook, Olivia Stefanino helps a salesman get to grips with following up on leads.

Alec was nonplussed. He worked hard – often into the night and at weekends, much to the disappointment of his wife and children. He had been running his own business for the past eight years – and despite the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into his efforts, he had never enjoyed the success he had originally anticipated.

Now employing four staff, Alec needed to ensure the future of his company more than ever and he had come to my office to discover where he was going wrong.

Alec had a clear vision of where he wanted to take his precision engineering company. All his employees understood and shared his dreams for the company and he was pleased with the quality of his staff, all of whom had stayed with him following their recruitment.

While Alec’s company wasn’t exactly in dire straits, he did feel that he had reached a plateau. One of his concerns was that by not moving forwards, he would end up going backwards!

I told Alec that most – if not all - company failures are due to a lack of sales. It made sense therefore, for Alec and I to use our session together to focus on his sales activities.

Alec recognised that as managing director, one of his key roles was generating sales.

But we both knew that creating a sale takes far more than simply sending out direct mail and hoping for the best – or cold calling on doors and expecting to be greeted with open arms.

I asked Alec to explain the sales process used by his company. The first step, he told me, had been to buy a good database. Next, he had sent out his company brochure to each likely prospect and the third part of the process had been waiting for the phone to ring. Which it hadn’t - at least, not very often.

The reasons for Alec’s lack of success were twofold – and they became clearer as our discussion continued. First of all, Alec needed to learn how to make his direct mail much more effective. He needed to follow up each letter that he sent with a personal phone call - failing to do so would guarantee the failure of the campaign.

I reminded Alec that direct mail is just the first step in the sales process. However, it is the most important step – and getting it wrong at this stage was to be avoided at all costs.

Having written sales copy myself for a number of years – and having made a number of spectacular blunders along with some resounding successes – I told Alec about the power of words. The key though, is that sales copy must answer: “what’s in it for the reader?”

Too often, I said, companies focus their efforts on creating pretty company logos and brochures – which at the end of the day; reflect the egos of their creators. Letterheads and brochures that are covered in corporate branding tend to turn off the reader – so it is better to focus on writing good copy that addresses the reader’s potential needs.

Another common mistake is to keep sales letters too short. Studies into buying patterns reveal that “the more you tell – the more you sell.” In other words, the more you tell about your product or service – and how it can benefit the reader – the higher the level of sales.

Also, research has shown that there are some simple ways that you can make a letter more inviting by using certain typefaces and colours. Alec and I went on to explore some magic phrases and ‘killer’ words that would ensure that his readers would accept his subsequent telephone request for the all-important face-to-face appointment.

Alec left my office ready to hone his own writing skills – and he agreed that he would probably take me up on my offer of editing his efforts!

Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, small to medium sized enterprises and individuals. To find out more and to download your free e-booklet: “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit


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