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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.

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