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SALES MANAGER CRITICAL: Clear Communications

July 10, 2019

There is too much distractive communication rather than effective communication. E-mails, texts, social media can take away and frequently diminish the more critical communication efforts of Managers. It is essential not to lose the art of face to face communication. For a useful discussion, the emotions of the listener must be considered. It is challenging to find emotions when using texts and e-mails.

Here are some interesting statistics I have pulled off the internet, which will help me make my point.

1. 70% of employees are not engaged. This is due to poor communication and lack of appreciation.
2. 46% of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do.

3.  60% of communication is body language, 30% is tonal, and 10% are the actual words.

Your behavioral style, your personal motivation, and drivers affect how your communication is coming across. The most crucial point in effective communication is “KNOWING YOURSELF.” Self-awareness is critical in knowing how your message will be received by different behavioral types.

Have you ever felt that your communication was perfectly clear, and yet some of your employees just didn’t get it?

No one is perfect. There will always be misunderstandings, and hopefully, with a little clarification, everything will be made perfectly clear. Let’s go back to “KNOWING YOURSELF.”
My first awareness came when I took a DISC assessment many years ago. I always thought of myself as open and collaborative. I was astonished to find how driving, challenging, and in general domineering I was. Without meaning to, I intimidated a lot of people.  How can people give you good input when they are afraid of you.  What is driving and motivating you is just as important as your behaviors.  At the time, I was doing a turnaround. My primary motivation and driver were to make an ROI. To be successful, I needed everyone to take action and do it quickly without worry.  Despite my words people with dramatically different behaviors and drivers did not believe me.

We can spend days and weeks with this discussion. However, here are some quick tips which I copied and pasted from the TTI DISC assessments which will be helpful.

When communicating with a person who is ambitious, forceful, decisive, strong-willed, independent and goal-oriented:
Be clear, specific, brief and to the point. Stick to business. Be prepared with support material in a well-organized “package.”
Factors that will create tension or dissatisfaction:
Talking about things that are not relevant to the issue. Leaving loopholes or cloudy issues. Appearing disorganized.

When communicating with a person who is magnetic, enthusiastic, friendly, demonstrative and political:
Provide a warm and friendly environment. Don’t deal with a lot of details (put them in writing). Ask “feeling” questions to draw their opinions or comments.
Factors that will create tension or dissatisfaction:
Being curt, cold or tight-lipped. Controlling the conversation. Driving on facts and figures, alternatives, abstractions.

When communicating with a person who is patient, predictable, reliable, steady, relaxed and modest:
Begin with a personal comment–break the ice. Present your case softly, nonthreateningly. Ask “how?” questions to draw their opinions.
Factors that will create tension or dissatisfaction:
Rushing headlong into business. Being domineering or demanding. Forcing them to respond quickly to your objectives.

When communicating with a person who is dependent, neat, conservative, perfectionist, careful and compliant:
Prepare your “case” in advance. Stick to business. Be accurate and realistic.
Factors that will create tension or dissatisfaction:
Being giddy, casual, informal, loud. Pushing too hard or being unrealistic with deadlines. Being disorganized or messy.

If you would like to have assessments on behaviors and motivators with debriefings, please do not hesitate to contact me.  If you would like to discuss your particular situation, please advise.  Make your comments below.

Sales Managers Critical Success Factor: Managing Your Time

May 1, 2019

Fill in the blanks. I could really increase sales if management would just let me do ……………….., and if they would stop asking me to do ……………. In the end, we could generate …………….and develop ……………

Well, I hear this regularly in my mentoring and coaching. You are not alone. One has to take control of your own destiny.
One of the most challenging things in business is to prioritize your activities to be as efficient as possible. Sales management gets requests from almost every department in an organization. Do any of these issues sound familiar?

• Salespeople want to know why their requests haven’t been answered.
• Upper-level management want to know if sales goals are being met.
• Production wants to understand why everything is a rush
• The technology department complains that they have not been given enough details to complete a task
• Accounting wants to know why we are selling this deadbeat customer and at such a low-profit-margin..

Where does one prioritize what to do? It’s almost like feeling you are being attacked by the company. How do you prioritize and manage your time under these conditions? Even worse, if you can’t manage and prioritize your time, how can you expect your salespeople?

Let’s step back. Daily, what do you think are the most essential activities of your job?

By far the most crucial task as a Sales Manager is to help, lead, manage and coach the Salespeople. Yet every week what percentage of time is devoted to those most important tasks? You are in a position that requires a lot of interaction with C-Level people, who want accurate reporting from you on all activities associated with sales and marketing. Moreover, the 24/7 mentality of being in contact with the world leads to so many distractions that it is challenging to stay focused and make sure that time is well managed.
In reality, “multi-tasking” is a myth. It can be the biggest killer of time imaginable by not focusing on one task at a time. Research has shown that every time one changes activities it takes approximately 20 minutes to get back to the original job. There are four ways to improve time management.

1. First, recognize where you are spending your time and how important is that activity.
2. Start making APPOINTMENTS with yourself. That is, learning to devote uninterrupted scheduled time where you do nothing else but focus on what is most important to you.
3. PRIORITIZE on revenue and profit generating activities, because that is most probably where 95% of Sales Managers are being judged.
4. Learn to delegate those tasks which are NOT revenue and profit generators.
5. Make sure you are not being held accountable for activities that DO NOT generate revenue and profit.

To help you better identify where you are at, review and rate the following list, and decide what needs to change to be more productive. You may have other areas which consume your time, which has not been listed. Add them, consider them, and above all take the necessary action to improve your time allocation. Remember prioritizing on what is most essential and MAKE APPOINTMENTS WITH YOURSELF.

IDENTIFYING YOUR TIME ALLOCATION and Its IMPORTANCE:

Following is a general list of activities which take up your time.  Identify how much of your weekly time on each activity.  Note which ones are most important in generating revenue and profit, and commit to prioritizing and devoting the most time to them.

  • E-mail and texting
  • Phone
    Meetings with Management
  • Meetings with Sales people
  • Communication to Management
    Communication to Internal Staff
    Communication to Sales Staff
    Planning and Developing Sales Strategies
    Customer Service and Quality Issues
    Managing and Improving the Sales Process
    Contract Negotiations and RFP’s
    Coaching Sales People and Visiting Prospects and Customers

Now that you have identified how your time is allocated versus its importance, what actions need to be taken. This is not easy, because frequently the CEO or upper-level management may have different ideas. However, my feelings are that your primary function should be to develop your people and thereby increase revenue and profits. Here is my belief on what the top activities of a Sales Manager are:
• Interaction and Coaching Sales People
• Planning and Developing Strategy
• Improving Sales Processes
• Keeping Management and Internal Staff Informed

My ideal situation would be to be spending 60% of the time interacting and Coaching Sales People. Then 25% planning and developing strategies with Marketing and Management, 10% Improving the processes, and 15% keeping Management and Internal Staff Informed.

As mentioned previously learn to delegate appropriately and NOT abrogate. Delegate in a constructive way, which explains to people why you are delegating. However, make sure you have a double check system to see that it gets done correctly. Be persistent about delegating. Don’t give up and wind up in a trap of working more on projects that take you away from your core responsibilities.

Of course, there are always those “Emergency Situations” in every business. Even then NOT everything is Urgent, but everything needs to be answered. Make it a general rule that everything must be responded to within 24 hours. Even if it is “I got your message, it will take me X time to get a right answer to your question. You do not have to respond to everything within the hour. This makes everything reactive as opposed to pro-active.
I hope this helps. Add your comments below or if you would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

The Importance of UFCs (Up Front Contracts)

March 29, 2019

UFC stands for an Up-Front Contract. It’s a great way to manage the expectations of a buyer, and what your company is willing to take responsibility for.  UFC’s make the buyer and the sales person accountable.  It is a way to make sure that your salespeople are not Overpromising and Underdelivering, which can be a long-term nightmare for any company.

I am amazed to see how many B2B companies do not use this simple tool., which helps you avoid undesirable conversations after the sale has already been made.

 

UFC’s are used a lot with B2C customers. If you have your car repaired, or some home repair like a new roof, they always make you sign a UFC. For B2B, a UFC doesn’t have to be some written legal document, just make sure that you agree on the expectations before closing the sale. It’s the salesperson’s responsibility. The difficulty lies in that the salesperson must try to be unattached to the outcome. If they are worried about making the sale frequently expectations will not be met. This may take some training on the Sales Manager’s part to get everyone on board. This may be contrary to other thoughts on just get the sale, but in today’s world, it is reality. Salespeople must be trained on handling expectations before the sale is closed.

I have seen even my wife use UFC’s with our grandchildren. Example: “Before we go into this store we have to agree that when I say it is time to leave we leave.” Isn’t that better than arguing after the fact when it is time to leave. Or, “I am willing to spend up to $10 on a toy no more. Do we agree?” It’s probably harder to get a UFC with your grandchild than it is with a customer.

A great blog to read is Managing Expectation is a Key to Success in Sales and In Life. Without re-creating the wheel, the blog has 3 principle areas on Managing expectations.

1. Communication and Responsiveness Throughout the Sales Process is Crucial
2. Avoid a “Maybe” or No Responses from your Prospects.
3. Be Sure to set Priorities and a Reasonable Time Line.

Of course, the sales people will say this is easier said than done. However, without clearly defined and realistic expectations there will be many dissatisfied customers.
To make a clearly defined expectation there needs to be a reiteration at the close of the sale.

1. Correct me if I am wrong, this is what you expect?
2. This is what I agree that I am going to do?
3. The acceptable time frame and when I am going to do it is as follows:
4. If for any reason, we cannot meet your expectations, I will let you know. Do we agree?

If you would like to discuss further or have other thoughts, please do not hesitate to comment on the above

Check Your Ego At The Door

February 27, 2019

No one is perfect, and growth is stunted by pride, so set your pride aside.

Whether you are a CEO, Sales Manager, or a Sales person every position requires more reflection and focus on self-improvement.

The market changes constantly and so must the sales and marketing approach.  We are all apprehensive towards change, especially when we have been successful in the past.

We believe that what created success today, will create success tomorrow. Yes and No.  What got you to the top before may not keep you there in the future. Don’t think of it as change.  Think about improvement, and adjustment.  Besides I don’t like to think of it as change; it’s about improving. John C. Maxwell’s Self Improvement 101 said it’s not about change; it’s about improving.  What steps can one take to move forward.

Plan 1: Focus on self-development rather than self-fulfillment. Reaching your sales goal is self-fulfilling. Has it really improved your sales skills? Have you reached your sales potential, if not, what will you do to get there?  Don’t just think it, write it.  Writing brings clarity.

Plan 2: Reach your potential by having the mindset of a continual learner. This is one of the first characteristics I look for when hiring a sales person. What books have you read about your profession? What seminars or workshops have you attended? No matter how many years you have been selling you can always learn something new.

 

Plan 3: Take time to read, listen or reflect. Self-Improvement must be planned for; the same way you develop a business plan. Warren Buffet wants his people spending one hour a day reading about business.  Make an appointment with yourself every day or every week to take time to read about your profession, listen to webinars, or reflect on what good and bad things happened during the week, and what can be improved. Bullet point your weekly activities, and then bullet point lessons learned. If you learned nothing, you’re doing something wrong.

 

Plan 4:  A great way to improve yourself is to teach your peers something you’re learning. Conversely, you can learn a lot from your peers, even if you do not think they are as proficient as you. Peers frequently have similar situations, but can come from a very different perspective.  Learning to ask questions and listening intently is one of the most powerful tools that people can use to improve themselves.

Plan 5:  Do you have a mentor or coach that can help you improve?  Nobody likes to be criticized, and many of us love sales, because we like to be our own boss. However, we all need some coaching and/or mentoring. Not only is experience a great teacher, but you having the time to express your opinions with someone that does not have an agenda can be very helpful and eye opening.   Your comments are welcome.  Hope this is helpful.

Hiring (and Keeping) Top Sales People

January 21, 2019

 

Almost every business owner and Sales Manager complains about hiring and keeping great sales people. I have read that within the first year there is a 50% turnover rate of salespeople. There are many facets to improving hiring practices. There are so many variables that no one can promise 100% effective hiring practice.

In general, only 30-35% of the decision should be based on an interview and resume. Using behavior, driver, and EQ assessments should contribute another 30-35% of the decision. Through millions of assessments, one can be assured that they are +90% accurate.

I recently attended a TTI Success Insights Conference with VPT Enterprises LLC. . We are now able to blend all the Behaviors, Drivers, and EQ information into a report which can give greater insight into your employees.

First let me give a very brief summary of EI or EQ. Daniel Coleman was a pioneer in the concept about Emotional Quotient (EQ) wrote the book Emotional Intelligence in 1995 and how it is even more important than IQ. Here are the basic four dimensions of EI.

• Self-Awareness: the ability to check one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, accurately assess one’s own strengths and weaknesses, while having a high level of self-worth and respect.
• Self-Regulation: the ability to adapt to change, regulate disruptive emotions, take effective actions toward goals, reach for self-improvement, act with integrity, and act on opportunities and see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
• Motivation is a passion to work for reasons that go beyond the external drive for knowledge, utility, surrounding, others, power or method and based on the internal drive or propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.
• Social Awareness: the ability to understand others, recognize and attend to customer’s needs, and since the political relationships and culture within an organization.
• Social Regulation: the ability to inspire, mentor, initiate change, work effectively through conflicts, influence others, and collaborate toward common goals.

From experience, if a salesperson focuses on self-awareness and is willing to focus on that aspect there will be real bottom line results. Bradberry and Greaves in their book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 stated “83% of people high in self-awareness are top performers.” When one is self-aware your choices are better, your pursuit of the right opportunities as well as allowing your emotions to guide you and NOT hinder you. A salesperson can know a product inside out, but cannot have long-term success without the abilities to forge strong relationships and assess how a client is feeling, and to cope with their own emotions.

If you would like a sample of these assessments, more information on this topic or to take the assessment yourself, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sales Words and Phrases to Avoid (Have You Said This?)

August 22, 2018

Well known psychologists suggest that human communication consists of 93% body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of the words themselves. Borg, John. Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language. Prentice Hall life, 2008. Even though only 7% of communication may be the words you use, it is still important to choose the words you use wisely to convey the appropriate message.

Recently, I witnessed two situations where experienced and accomplished sales people used the wrong words and, completely turned off a potential customer and a potential referral partner.

“You should…”
The first example, I was at a networking event and one of the smartest and most detailed people I know used the words “you should” in response to another person’s venting about certain business issues. The person venting did not even listen to the advice given because he stopped listening as soon as “you should” was said. The phrase “you should” is what my mother used to tell me, when she did not like how I was behaving. “You should go to your room now.” Most people feel condescended (which means talked down to) when someone tells them “you should…” Does the following sound better?

Have you thought about ……?
Have you tried ……..?

Advice
Sometimes people that ask for advice do not really want it. In situations like the above, it also may be useful to really try to assess whether the person venting is actually asking for advice and, whether you have permission to give them advice. A nice way of getting permission to give advice is to say something like, “I have encountered something similar in the past. That is difficult to deal with. Are interested in the way I handled it?”

“Obviously….”
The second example, at a sales training seminar, one of the sales people continually used the words “obviously” and “basically.” Those words can also be condescending. Depending upon the situation, people may interpret this as “What are you stupid?”

“I am just…”
When I was starting out in sales some 35 years ago, I was working for Kraft Foods. My supervisor was with me, when a customer asked me where she could find something. My reply was “I am JUST a salesman.” My supervisor gave me hell. When we use the word “just” we are lowering the value of ourselves and our offering. Sales is an honorable profession, you are an honorable person, and your products add value or you would (not should) be selling them.

As salespeople we must send positive strong messages. From other illustrious sales writers like Alan Fairweather, Larry Prevost, and Dr. Gary Goodman, here are other sales words that “you should” (just kidding), that you might want to avoid using.

AVOID                                                             REPLACE WITH
I’d like to                                                         What we’ll do is
Perhaps                                                           What we do
I can’t or you can’t                                          I am unable to because
You will have to                                              “Are you willing to” or “Will you”
But                                                                  “And” or “However”
I’ll try                                                               This is what I can do.

I would love to hear more words and phrases that you personally feel upset you, and see if we can come up with better ways of expressing them. Please send me your comments.

Sales is a Numbers Game: Yes, No, Maybe

July 23, 2018

So, I have one client who I have encouraged to make cold call face to face visits. To his credit he made 60 calls and has one potential. He has gotten over the fear of hearing no, which is terrific. However, how many people will keep going after 60 calls. This is like chopping down a tree with a dull axe.

To be honest, I have also suffered from sales call reluctance. I do not know many people that have not. We can go into all the different reasons, but it really isn’t necessary. I will leave that to the behavioral scientists. JUST DO IT. You have chosen to be in sales and this is your job.

With that said make no mistake about it. Sales is not only a numbers game but a performance game. The more contacts you make the more possibilities. One does not have to be the smartest or the prettiest, or even the friendliest to be a successful prospector. It is a discipline. However, if you are not constantly reviewing what you can do better it will stay very frustrating and laborious.

I know one gentleman that is an introvert that will make 50 calls/day. He has not only developed a very thick skin but is constantly improving his friendliness, and his methods. Because he is an introvert, he as learned that it is better to ask questions and focus on the customer rather than trying to sell immediately. Has he made mistakes? Of course, it is part of the game.

Prospecting is an endurance test. People are lucky today that there are several ways to have people contact other than straight cold calling.

There are several things that are critical in being a successful prospector and enjoying it.

1. Be consistent, and persistent. Set specific times for your prospecting with no diversions or interruptions allowed. It is your primary job. Paperwork does not increase revenue or profit.
2. Try different ways of prospecting. Cold calls in person, cold calls over the phone, LinkedIn, trade shows, general networking. Don’t go just one way. This will not only keep it interesting, but you can keep track of what was most successful and how much time you are willing to devote to each.
3. Make a goal of 10, 20, 30 or new contacts per week. Reward yourself for achieving this goal on a weekly basis.
4. Make a clearly defined customized target list. This may take some time. Don’t let it deter you from picking up the phone or making a personal call. Constantly add to this list through LinkedIn, referrals, and industry news.
5. The average sales person only follows up 1.5 times after initial contact. Develop a clear follow up strategy with at least 8 follow ups for every new contact. E-mails, phone calls, industry news, company news, etc. are all good ways to keep following up. Just try to add VALUE with every touch.
6. Always hone your questions and pitch and make sure it is customer focused first and then sales focused. Everyone can get better.
7. Make a habit of asking for referrals. Even if someone says no, they may no someone that needs your product and service. New clients selected you and your company for a reason, ask for the referral.
8. Monitor and measure your sales activity but don’t overdo it. Keep it simple with a MAXIMUM of 3 key performance indicators. Number of prospects, appointments, and closes. You can fall into the same trap of call reluctance by measuring too much and wasting time.

I trust I have made the case for sales numbers and performance. Do not wait till tomorrow. Start today. Make your plan and plan your work but do it. HAPPY PROSPECTING. Comments are always welcome.

The Philosophy of Selling to Save, Time, Trouble and/or Money.

May 16, 2018

If you do not know how to save a prospect time, trouble, or money with your product and service than you should not even be in the door.  I cannot tell you how many people I have mentioned this too.  I still hear from sales people I worked with 20 and 30 years ago that still mention TTM (Time, trouble, and money).  To many times I have heard sales people talk about features and benefits.  The benefits always somehow come down to dollars.  Although this makes good sense.  A sales person really needs to understand how their product for a particular prospect saves time, trouble, and money (TTM).  It can be different for each company you are dealing with.  However, if you want them to buy, it really comes down to this simple acronym.  And when I say money, I am not referring to just the COST of a product or service.  Usually the cost of a product or service are minor to the overall cost of an operation.  However, buyers will always use the excuse “The price is to high”.  That’s because the solution has not been expressed in the very simple terms of TTM

As an example, the product you are selling is a commodity.  What different ways can you save a customer TTM without lowering your price? Try and quantify with some number either dollars, time, or a percentage on what you can save a customer.  Try and at least quantify 2 out of 3 TTM’s.  Probably if you have done 2 you really have 3. If your TTM is not greater than 10 times the cost of your product than you do not have a sale.   Some initial thoughts are as follows:

1.       Smaller order requirements

2.       Shorter lead times

3.       Faster delivery

4.       Extended payment terms

5.       Faster throughput

6.       Less errors in production

7.       Less waste

8.       More yield

9.       Portion controlled packaging

10.   Less waste

11.    Energy cost savings

 

I am sure there are many more examples.  Please share and let’s discuss.  You can either e-mail (allan@salescoachaz.com ) call 480-220-4296 or make your comments below:

THE SCIENCE OF MOTIVATING SALES PEOPLE

April 30, 2018

I recently read an E-mail white paper by the Hoffeld Group called “The Science of Motivating Sales People”. The Hoffeld Groups sales training approach is based on neuroscience and behavioral science.

There are some very interesting points, which I can whole heartedly agree. The true essence is this mentality of the carrot and the stick of Sales Management must go.

Their white paper makes the following points.
1. Most of motivational strategies that sales managers use demotivate sales people. My blog in 2012 Sales People Are Not Just Motivated by Money, I quoted Dan Pink’s book Drive, which says how people are truly motivated. By the way sales people are people too.
2. Of course, compensation is important. However, compensation based on financial incentives motivate to a point. Once the goal is met, they cease to motivate. The results are temporary and do not produce lasting improvements in performance.
3. Self-motivation and the desire to be better at what they do is the strongest driver.

What is important to Sales people other than money? From personal experience and from what I have read, most people are motivated by autonomy, a sense of purpose, interesting work, and job security. Great leadership can motivate, but overall people must be self-motivated. Your most important job as a Sales Manager is not to demotivate but help them get better.  Beating them with a stick does not work.

So, what can you do to assure that you get all top performers. It starts with proper hiring. Form your hiring interview on uncovering self-motivation. Don’t worry so much about experience in the industry and/or education. Think about the most successful people you know and what are their traits, and how you will uncover them in the interview? With your present sales people see where there are weaknesses and help them if you can. Here are some attributes of successful sales people.

1. They do not fear failure – The understanding that one can learn more from failures than from successes.
2. Their mentality is one of constantly improving themselves and improving things around them. This also means that they are willing to be coached.
3. They are goal oriented.
4. They have a lot of self-confidence – If they are not confident in themselves, and are not confident in the company, how can a prospect or client be confident.
5. They love a challenge. – Nothing is more challenging than sales.
6. They have creative thoughts on how to approach different situations
7. They are optimistic about themselves and the world around them.
8. They easily relate to others and have empathy.
9. They have excellent communication skills both verbally and in writing.
10. They are persistent and not afraid to follow-up with people if they see a benefit to the prospect.
11. They connect easily with people and are not afraid to share their connections.


Now the question becomes how you compensate these type sales people. A good article to read from Harvard Business Review is “How to Really Motivate Sales People” by Doug J. Chung. In essence devise part of the compensation plan that will make them more successful and motivated other than money. Keep your payout periods short not annually. Keep it simple. Think about giving gifts for achievement rather than money. In any case, keep experimenting with the compensation system till you find something that works for your sales force.

Your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

HOW A CRM CAN DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE BUSINESS

March 4, 2018

 

Although CRM stands for Customer Relationship Manager, it means different things to different people. CRM’s are constantly evolving and are seldom used to their full potential. They are tremendous tools to collect data, keep contact, track progress and help analyze the information. Of course, as Sales Managers your main purpose is to generate revenue and profit and close more deals. However, no matter what you think the CRM does, the emphasis is on Customer focus.

We must start out with the people, the process, and the customer before even thinking about getting a CRM. If there is no formalized Sales process, and the people are not convinced that a tool will help them and NOT just help management, the CRM will become a very expensive data dump, and nothing else. All aspects of the Enterprise must be committed to making it work, and participants in the development and use of the CRM. It is NOT just for Sales and Sales Management.

As a consultant this is the type of scenario that often happens.

Sales Manager Bob bought a CRM one year before I started consulting him. After 1-year Bob felt that the CRM was an unnecessary expense. There was no increase in revenue, the pipeline was filled, but there did not seem to be anymore closing of deals. Before eliminating this tool, I asked Bob a few questions:

1. Is there an in-house champion that helps people with utilizing the CRM?
2. Do you have a Sales Process that is Customer focused and has your CRM been customized for the Sales Process?
3. Is the CRM integrating your sales, marketing, and customer service operations?
4. Do customer support people have access to the CRM to help track work orders and progress?
5. Are there enough defined steps in your Sales Process, where you can see and help your sales people through the next step?
6. Is the CRM cumbersome where the sales folks must copy and paste from Outlook to the CRM?
7. Is there a dashboard of data and information that will help you manage and lead your Sales people?

After many long discussions with not only Bob, and the different departments we decided to take the following steps.

1. Develop a CRM Team with the different departments to gain advice on what will promote cooperation and work flow ease internally, so the customer benefits.
2. Be clear on what information is needed by every department for prospects and customers to make the CRM important to every discipline.
3. Clearly define not only the Sales Process, but the internal processes needed for a sale to be completed, and for customers to be maintained.
4. Make sure that the CRM is easy to learn and use, particularly by the Sales people.

It really took almost another year before the benefits of the CRM started to be seen. The first benefit was seeing cooperation and work flow improvements through the departments. It made Bob’s job a lot easier. Bob was now managing the process more than the people. This gave him better insight in what and how to coach his salespeople and name the roadblocks that stop salespeople from closing the sale. Revenue increases in the second year were 48%.

Why Have a Sales Process?

February 27, 2018

Sales Management can read ad nauseum about creating a Sales Process and Implementing one.  I have helped develop and worked with companies that say they have a Sales Process.  For the Sales process to be effective, it must be Customer focused. This means understanding and fulfilling the customers needs, wants, pains, fears, and desires with your product or services must be the foremost thought and result in developing the process.  The Process is a roadmap, and not a railroad track.  You must allow for salespeople’s creativity, and style to reach the end goal.  It will not be the same, but there are critical points along the way that must be done. It is important to develop Different Versions of the Sales Process for Different Target Customers and understand the motivations and concerns of the prospects.  Don’t waste company money on a CRM, until you have clearly defined your Sales Process.  Developing a clear concise Sales Process can have a dramatic positive effect in reducing the Sales Cycle and closing more deals.  The key elements in a Sales Process are as follows:

  • Method for creating and handling Leads
  • Identifying and Qualifying the leads into prospects
  • Prospect Development –
  • Negotiating and Closing the Sale
  • Customer Retention, Follow up Procedures

Following are points to consider under each element of the Sales Process.  detailed

What is the main source of Getting Leads? How many leads are needed to generate the revenue goal from the different Lead Generators? 

  • Trade Shows
  • Networking Events
  • Social Media
  • E-Newsletters and Direct Mail
  • Web Site / Blogging
  • Customer Referrals.
  • Cold Calling – from lists – chambers, industries, etc.

 

Identifying and Qualifying Leads

  • Who will handle the lead?
  • What critical questions need to be asked to qualify the lead?
  • What possible needs must be identified?
  • How fast do we follow up after initial contact?
  • What are acceptable next steps for the lead? Examples:
    • Appointment
    • Sending Information
    • Demonstration of product

 

Qualified Prospect Development – Depending upon the business, this can take several meetings.  Start the relationship development and understanding the situation. Identify the decision-making process, and the motivators to buy.  At this juncture, what is the percent that become customers, and how many will you need to achieve the revenue goal.

  • What questions and connections do you have with the prospect that will help you establish credibility and a relationship?
  • What questions or information is needed to be asked for Management and Internal Staff to understand the situation? Examples:
    • What is the possible revenue to be generated?
    • Are the discussions with the decision maker or an influencer of the decision?
    • Other than price, how and when will the final decision be made?
    • Who else is involved in the decision?
  • What problem, fear, challenge, opportunity, or aspiration was identified?
    • Has there been a quantification of the problem?
      • How much time is it taking them?
      • How much money is it costing them?
      • What kind of trouble have they gotten into or foresee if they do not resolve this situation?
  • Is there an established vendor and has the risk of change to a new vendor been addressed?
    • Do we understand what will inhibit them from moving away from the vendor?
    • Have we agreed to a way to mitigate the risk?
    • Do they perceive it as a risk?
  • What other obstacles / objections are there in doing business with our company?
  • What other competitors are being evaluated?
  • Are there specific requirements for the solution?
    • Price
    • Job Completion
    • Payment terms
    • Security Issues
    • Technology and Regulations
    • What is the most convenient and preferable way to communicate with the prospect and company?
  • Is there any flexibility in these requirements?
  • What possible options were discussed and was one more acceptable than another?
  • What is the value proposition, and key non-price differentiator vs. the competition?
  • Does the prospect agree, or have they verified the benefits of doing business with you?
  • Do we have to somehow prove the benefits before the sale is made?
  • What are the next steps in moving forward and when?  Is there a mutually agreed upon Product / Service Evaluation Plan that proves the company’s capabilities?
    • Demonstration
    • Proposal
    • Visit with Technical Experts
    • Tour of Facility
    • Visit of Higher Level Management
  • Are there important follow-ups needed before the next meeting?
    • Third Party referrals
    • Support Materials or articles supporting proposed solution.
    • Other

 

Negotiation and Close

  • What obstacles will stop from closing the deal?
  • Is the proposal presented as a Win-Win?
  • Are we very clear on the value that the customer will receive?
  • What is the least we expect from this proposal?
  • What is the best we can expect from the proposal?
  • Do we understand and have we addressed all critical business issues?
  • Can we quantify the value to be gained by the client?

 

Follow Up and Repeat Business

  • Who are the responsible parties for following up with the customer?
  • After the contract is completed, what plans are there to be getting additional business?
  • How will we handle the customer in the future?
  • How frequently will the customer need to be visited and / or contacted to keep them as a customer?
  • When and how do I ask for a customer referral?

So you may now be totally overwhelmed with the information needed to develop a Sales Process.  Your best and first source is to solicit your Sales people in helping develop the Sales Process.  It is truly amazing what you will hear from them.  However, in the end you will get better buy in if they participate in developing this all important process.  

Best Practices for Handling an RFP

February 26, 2018

I asked my colleague Lisa Rehurek, a leading authority in RFP success to add her comments to this blog.

Has this happened to you?

Some large potential client calls you up and asks for your company to make a company presentation. You spend hours putting together a presentation, then you fly to the prospect taking some top executives with you.

After the presentation you are asked to participate in an RFP (Request for Proposal), which would bring in $2,000,000 in revenue.

Because this was an unusually large request from a reputable company, your whole team spends the better part of two weeks trying to put together the proposal.

The result: Thank you very much for your time, but we decided to go with the competitor.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Part of our jobs as Sales Managers and Sales Coaches is to make sure that the company does not waste time and resources on long shot opportunities. In some cases, even with large potentials it is not worth the time and effort of our people if there is no true basis for doing business.

The first mistake was giving a presentation without being very specific as far as what attracted your prospect’s interest and understanding their overall objective. Never give a presentation if you do not know what is important to the prospect. Once you know that, then focus your whole presentation around it. The prospect is only mildly interested in all the other things your company does, and the first presentation is not the time to inundate them with your entire series of offerings.

Some questions you should ask of your prospect include:

1. Other than price, what criteria is important to the prospect?
2. Has there been an issue with the previous supplier? Is there a previous supplier?
3. Why are you going out to bid?
4. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to…. {whatever you are providing a solution for}
5. What additional information do you need from the prospect to make sure that they are comparing apples to apples?
6. Is your timeline the same as theirs? Do they want the project finished within a specific time?
7. Are they willing to take suggestions to their RFP, which may reduce costs, or improve the project overall?
8. Will you be allowed to present the RFP face to face, and ask some of these questions?

The second mistake was responding to the RFP without first asking some of the following questions internally:

• Why is this prospect important to us?
• Do we have the resources to bid on this and to do the contract work?
• How does this client fit into our overall business development strategy?

Creating assessment criteria for opportunities like this is important when you start looking at RFP opportunities, because the time and expense associated with bidding can be intense. You want to make sure you’re bidding for the right reasons, aligned with your internal strategy.

If you feel that you must bid and that this is a door opener, do it intelligently. If a prospect is not willing to let you ask these questions, could that be a sign that they truly aren’t interested in choosing the best vendor? You must also agree on a basis for doing business. The buyers’ job is to make you a commodity. Yours is to show them your competitive edge. Sell the value of doing business with the company and yourself beyond just the product or service that you offer.

In some cases, they are only sending out these RFP’s to compare to their present vendor. With such a large bid, trust and competence is more important than price to the buyers. They may say price is most important, but without the trust and competence would you put your job on the line for a better price?

Give us your situation and thoughts and let’s see if we can help you do a better job of winning the bid. You can contact Lisa directly at lisa@lisarehurek.com. 

PERSERVERANCE AND FOLLOWING UP

November 30, 2017

 

It is amazing to me how poorly sales people follow-up after their first touch or their first appointment. I have seen great presentations go to waste, because of lousy follow-up. The two biggest reasons for NOT following up are sales people do not want to be a pest, and some false assumptions about a customer. The idea in following up is to show that you can add value to their business, and to build a further level of trust and credibility. It is best to first ask the prospect for permission to follow-up. Do not follow-up by saying just checking in with an e-mail or phone call. Have a purpose. I have read that the average sale takes 7 touches. Today it probably takes more, because people are more reluctant to trust someone. Remember to deliver value on every call, and every correspondence. So here is my list of ways to follow-up. If you have more, please add to them.

1. General Follow-Up – Make sure before leaving the appointment, that there is an agreement on what details need are followed up and when. After sending follow-up phone call to make sure the information was enough.
2. Send Articles Related to Their Business – these sets the tone that you are a resource of information. You can find many articles in trade magazines, or the internet. Make sure to send a handwritten note tying it back to what you previously discussed.
3. Share Your New Company’s New Product or Service – This is a no brainer, and so important. Even if it does not pertain directly to them, it may show that your company is an innovator.
4. Customer Testimonials – Don’t be shy. If you got them, flaunt them. Testimonials are powerful, especially if they are from someone who your prospect knows.
5. Look for Referrals for the Prospect – Ask first what good referrals for them are? The idea is that we are all in this together. Again be a resource not just a salesperson.
6. Send News Articles about Their Company – Set up Google Alerts about announcements about their own company. Send Congratulations. This shows that you are knowledgeable about the goals and opportunities of the prospect.
7. Add them to Company E-Newsletters – If they read them or click on a link, it gives you more opportunity for engagement and discussion.
8. Send Competitive Information – Your buyer always wants to know what competition is doing. Just make sure that it is public information, and that you are NOT sharing any trade secrets.

HIRING TOP SALES PEOPLE

October 9, 2017

So, you think because of your great sales ability you know people?  You think because of your experience in the industry you know who you should hire as a top performing sales person?

I have news for you.  It isn’t that easy.

Hiring effective sales people and training them not only to sell your product but also to adhere to your company’s sales culture is perhaps the most difficult job you have.  However, if done right it will make your job easy.  If I have one regret it is not spending the time to hire the right people for sales territories which affected my job.

Realize that the average turnover rate of salespeople is between 53-68% in the first year. Just think what a tremendous cost that is to any organization and the time spent by sales management bringing someone on board.  The axiom of hire slow and fire quick is most important for salespeople because they are the face of your company.  There is nothing more important to you personally than making a great hire.  It will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.  Spend the time and the money to do it right!

HIRING FOR EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE

A Carnegie Foundation study once found that only 15% of a business person’s success could be attributed to job knowledge and technical skills.  A whopping 85% to one’s success could be determined by the “ability to deal with people” and “attitude.”  Hiring because of experience frequently leads to mediocrity.  Smart motivated salespeople will quickly learn your business and the needed technical skills to be successful.  Attributes like customer focus, competitiveness, solving problems and the desire for self-development are hard things to teach and are much more valuable than experience.  They may also be difficult to establish during the interview.

Do yourself a favor.  Make a list of the top 10-20 characteristics that you feel are important to be a successful sales person in your company.  Sadly, many candidates are knocked out of contention by Job Descriptions that demand years of experience and education.  Here are my top attributes that I think are often more valuable:

  1. Belief in the products and services that you are selling.
  2. Self-accountability and a continuous improvement mindset.
  3. How well they prepare.
  4. Maintaining a high activity level.  A need to hit a high percentage of targets.
  5. An enjoyment of the monitoring and measuring for tracking progress.
  6. Customer focused question asking at least 80% of the time.
  7. Relentless Follow up.
  8. Courageous.  Not afraid to challenge, negotiate and do the right thing for your company and the client.

BEHAVIORAL, VALUE AND PERSONAL SKILL ASSESSMENTS

Behavioral assessments like TRIMETRIX, OMG, and MySalesTest can help you determine some of the characteristics listed above.  Make sure that these assessments are customized for your business.  Although, I strongly suggest that you use these tools, only 30% of your decision should be based on what those reports uncover.

Before even starting the hiring process here are some critical points to consider.

  1. Can you weigh the importance of the following parts of the process and their effect on the selling of your products: Cold calling, networking, qualifying, closing, maintaining.
  2. Can you measure the key behaviors necessary to be a successful sales person in your business? (E.g. cold calls/day, quotes/day, talk time on phone, $ sales, face to face meetings)
  3. Do you have a written sales process and expectations of how fast deals close?
  4. Is your sales compensation plan reflecting the corporate objectives and culture, or is it just reflecting revenue?
  5. Can you accurately describe the culture of your company and why you do business? Do you really know what your company’s most critical values are and how it fits with the potential hire?
  6. How are you supporting your salesperson internally?
  7. How much supervision can you give to a new sales hire?

DEVELOP A HIRING PROCESS

The first step is to write an excellent job description.  If you have an HR department solicit their knowledge.  Make them your business partners.  Do not abdicate the function totally to them.  If you do not have an HR department go on-line, and get some ideas.  The Job Description must reflect the company’s culture, ideals and mission, key responsibilities, and expectations.

Whether you post on the different job sites, LinkedIn or go through a recruiter reviewing the resumes will be an arduous task.  The average HR person spends only 11 seconds looking at a resume.  The only thing you are really looking for is ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

Since the phone is one of the most important points of contact for the majority of sales people, qualifying with a Phone Interview can save a lot of valuable time.  One of the tricks I like to do is when setting up a phone interview make them leave a voicemail.  Do they have energy? Do they sound positive and enthusiastic when leaving the voice message?  Are they sort of rambling and dull?  What does it tell you about this person? Here is a list of 12 questions I like to ask in the phone interview:

  1. What can you tell me about our company?
  2. What made you apply for this position?
  3. Describe the type sales position you are presently in?
  4. How are you getting leads and prospecting?
  5. What is the most important thing you are looking for in a company/position?
  6. What is the most significant accomplishment or sales you have made in your career?
  7. Describe the best sale you ever made?
  8. Describe a situation where you had a conflict with either bosses, peers or clients and how did you resolve it?
  9. How do you see yourself in the next 5 years?  What do you want to be when you grow up?
  10. When would you be available?
  11. What is your salary/compensation expectation?
  12. Do you have any questions for me?

If they do not have any questions for you at the end of the interview I seriously suggest that you do not consider them as a candidate.  Purposeful questions and listening intently are key characteristics of top sales people.

THE FIRST INTERVIEW

Make sure that you have several team members involved.  Even your receptionist can be a vital qualifier.  After all, the candidate may give a great interview, but their true colors may be shown when they are talking to an Administrative Assistant or a receptionist.  How a sales person treats them may give you an indication of how they will be received by other companies.

You should not be the only interviewer.  The other team members will be people that will have continuous contact with a new sales hire.  Give each team member specific questions to ask that they can rate on a scale of 1-5.  In this way, every candidate will be asked the same questions.  Hold a follow up meeting with team members to discuss each candidate.  Your team members will help you narrow down your choices.

HAVE A SECOND INTERVIEW

Now that you narrowed down your choices, have a second interview.  By this time, it is strongly suggested that you have given them a behavioral assessment.  Give it to them before they come into the meeting and share the results.  This will alert you and them to differences between what they are saying in an interview and what the assessment says.  Be direct and be honest.  These assessments are there for a purpose and are accurate upwards of 90%.  They will show behaviors, drivers and what their true skills are.

By this time, you will have a good overall picture of your potential sales person.  Now you have to make sure that you have a great on-boarding process to assure their success and yours.

 

 

Getting Your Sales People to Prospect More and Better

September 29, 2017

So, for many sales people, they avoid prospecting like the plague.  Prospecting is something that every salesperson must do daily.  I was listening to one speaker from Sandler Sales that said the average salesperson spends only 35 minutes/day prospecting.  One would think it should be at least 50% of the time.

Salespeople are lucky today.  There are a myriad number of ways to prospect.  Social Media, Inbound marketing, trade shows, email marketing, networking, direct marketing, or referrals.  And yes, cold calling is NOT dead and must be part of the repertoire.  I suggest never rely on just one way of prospecting, but make sure that there is a daily time for your people to prospect.  Consistency is incredibly important.  No excuses.  No distractions, which means e-mails, internet notices, or employee interruption.  Have your people make appointments with themselves to prospect.

Develop a basic “Prospect Process”, and get each sales person to commit to developing their own process which is based on “The Prospect Process”.  Besides committing to daily prospecting, salespeople must give a forecast of the desired result to see if management and the salespeople are on the same page.  Make sure no matter which way you decide that is best to prospect that it is measurable.  This is easy to track on your CRM.

In today’s world, I feel strongly that the term “Cold Call” should be changed to “Tepid Call”.  All the above-mentioned methods of prospecting are putting your people in an easy position to “Pick up the Phone”.  Even if there has been extensive e-mailing and texting between prospect and company, a trusting relationship can only be built through direct contact.

As professionals, you must put yourself on the other side of the table, and think about the best way for someone to contact you or develop a relationship.  What I find disturbing is when someone calls me and immediately tries to sell.  Your desired outcome of a phone call is not to sell immediately.  It is first exploratory, and qualification.  The main objective may be an appointment.  Or, it may be to just see if there is pain, fear, or desire that possibly your company can resolve.    Or, it may be just permission to contact them again referring to what they said was important to them.  No matter what happens, make sure your people stay focused on the desired result.

Make sure that your people have some key questions to ask when they are on the phone.  And not those banal questions like “What keeps you up at night?” or “What is your biggest challenge?”  Prospects should get the feeling that you know the industry or service well enough to ask them if they have challenges in the following areas?  And maybe a follow-up question how are your presently resolving?  These are not selling questions, they are discovery questions.  This is the only script I would have every salesperson have.

The average salesperson gives up after 1.5 interactions.  The average sale is made after 8 contacts.  A great statistic to remember.  Trusting relationships are built over time.  Don’t let them forget it.  I strongly suggest developing a Touch List as part of the “Prospect Process”.  Keep trying to add value and/or education with each touch.  Some touches can be

  • Per our conversation, this is an interesting article that may be of interest to you.
  • Noticed from articles that your company is doing blah blah.
  • Send whitepapers from your company
  • Have them participate in a survey and go over the results from the industry
  • Perhaps an interesting study, that may be helpful to them.
  • Follow up phone calls relating to the past discussion, not checking-in.

In any case, there must be a consistent follow-up, and a plan to succeed.

So how to start!  This depends on your organization and your own beliefs.  Make sure that you are measuring the results.

From my experience, this is how I would prioritize the different prospecting methods and why:

  1. Referrals from customers are the number 1 way of prospecting.  Many people wait for the referral without asking.  Get your salespeople oriented toward asking for referrals.  At least 50% of the work is done when a third party says how great your company is.  How to ask for referrals is the trick.
  2. Trade shows are great if they are planned properly. Appointments should be set up before the show, and a target list of people attending the show is critical.
  3. LinkedIn is great if you are not trying to sell straight off the bat. Easy to make connections through groups, other contacts, or just asking to be connected.  One can target prospects by company, and position.  This really creates the tepid contact.  Just make sure that your initial contact is not selling, but exploring.
  4. E-Mail newsletters and blogging. E-mail newsletters are great if you follow up on the reports.  One can see who read them and drip another e-mail.  Too few people use those Newsletters effectively to generate leads and prospects.
  5. Networking contacts. Connections are everything in prospecting.  However, networking can be an absolute waste of time, or be a tremendous source of potential customers.  It is all dependent upon the group, your ability to connect, and having similar target customers.  Many salespeople will gravitate toward this prospecting but watch the ROI carefully.  Networking is fun, but measure how much time in a day it takes, and you may not see an ROI for months.
  6. Cold Calling. There are very few effective cold callers.  Today there should never really be that traditional cold call, where you cannot refer to a connection, or having enough background information on the person or business to know how you can benefit them.  It does not matter how many benefits you can site if you do not have some basic information on the company or person.  Your first call is exploratory, NOT to sell.
  7. Inbound Marketing. I think this is a great tool.  I believe that it works, but takes a lot of work.  My concern is that it is missing the key element.  Picking up the phone and following up.  Inbound marketing will never replace face to face.

This is a very brief overview of Prospecting.  If you are interested in discussing more, please “Pick up the Phone” or e-mail.

 

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