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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.  

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