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The Value of Feeling Valued: How to Keep Sales People

July 31, 2017

So, you have gone to the trouble of hiring a salesperson and within 6 months to a year, either they have found another opportunity or you are ready to fire them.  A certain amount of turnover can be expected or needed.  However, the statistics range from 10% to 60% of sales people leaving a company within the first year of employment.  There is a big cost associated with turnover.  Think of the training time, and the possible loss in customer satisfaction when they see a new face every few months.  What can Sales Management and Sales Leadership do to stop this exodus?

IMPROVE YOUR HIRING PROCESS AND SELECTION FOR SALESPEOPLE – Stop hiring people because of experience and start hiring them because of skills and self-motivation.  If you are going through an HR person, have them benchmark your top performers.  Spend the time necessary to do it right.  Remember the cliché “Hire Slow and fire quickly”.

MAKE SURE YOUR SALESPEOPLE FEEL IMPORTANT – One of the hardest things to do is sit and listen to someone. However, it is the most effective way to let someone know that their ideas and opinions are important to you.  Salespeople have a difficult job.  Expectations are high, they are typically out there alone and day to day failure may be a given. Give them the time and listen intently.  Focus on what they are saying and don’t let distractions or interruptions interfere with that private time. It is also important to answer everything within a reasonable time.  There is nothing worse than NOT getting a response from your boss.  Make sure that the salesperson feels that you have their back if there are problems outside the sales department.  A feeling of importance is the number 1 thing people look for in a job.

RADICAL CANDOR – I am a big fan of Kim Scott’s book and Ted Talk Radical Candor.  You must tell your people that you appreciate their efforts and at the same time in a calm, straight-forward way tell them where they are failing.  Do not wait for that quarterly or yearly review.  Do it whenever necessary while the mistake is fresh in your mind and theirs.  If they know you have their best interest at heart it will be appreciated over time.  It is your moral obligation to tell it like it is.

ACCEPT MISTAKES AND DON’T BERATE – Once you have discussed their mistake with them, if it is a common issue in your business, bring it up as a group. Highlight any ideas the salesperson has for fixing the issue.  Mistakes are powerful learning opportunities.  Don’t miss out on one!

UNREASONABLE PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS –  Sales people naturally want to be challenged.  There is nothing worse than having a salesperson not be challenged.  However, there are reasonable expectations and unreasonable ones.  Instead of dictating the expectations, collaborate with the sales people on the expectations, and then hold them accountable.

LOW COMPENSATION – While this is a common excuse for turnover, the value of feeling valued is greatly underestimated.  If you follow many of the above leadership points they will outweigh low compensation.  Who wants to leave an environment where one is respected and has a feeling that they can control their own destiny?

FIRE THE NEGATIVE ENERGY PEOPLE –  This may sound contrary to everything that I just wrote.  However, let’s be realistic. No matter how hard you try, some people just cannot be coached or motivated.  Fire them.  If you tolerate their behavior than you are giving permission for others to have bad behavior.  Don’t let them drag you or your company down. Fire them quickly!

Comments positive or negative are graciously accepted.  If you would like to have a free personal discussion, please give me a call at: (480)656-3565.

Coaching on a Sales Call

June 30, 2017

 

One of the most difficult tasks for new and experienced Sales Managers is to Coach on a Sales call.  Since most Sales Managers were top performers as sales people it is a natural tendency to take over the sales call instead of observing or being in the background on the call.  Your chance to coach and improve your representative is by observation not by taking over.  Even though you may have done things instinctively, it is now time to be methodical and step by step in coaching.

Of utmost importance is having some type of Sales Process that you are helping your Sales Representative follow.  We will have more on that subject later.  Your objective is to make sure that the Representative is following the process as much as possible.  I like to say that a Sales Process is a roadmap not a railroad track.  There are many roads that can lead to the endpoint, but there is a clear direction and certain important steps that cannot be overlooked.

Before going into the Sales Call make sure there is a clear objective and purpose to the call.  Don’t waste your time visiting one of their buddy business friends.  I have found that these calls are meaningless, and unless you are there to help some specific project move forward forget about it.

Now you must start getting into the details.  Something I am sure most sales people abhor.  Whatever the objective is really ask the representative how he/she is planning to get to the desired result.  What is the best scenario and what is the worst?  What does the rep know, and what does the rep need to ask?  What is your role Mr/MS Sales Manager in the discussion?  Even if you have 10 sales calls together everyone of these calls must have some type of planning and purpose before the call.

Critiquing the Sales call right after the call or at worst the next day is very important.  This is important in establishing accountability and improvement.  If you can emphasize the positive first before the negative.  Stretch the sales rep in asking them how they think the presentation could have gone differently.  Make sure you are not trying to teach them to be you.  Utilize their strengths and help them put into their own words what they can change.

The Importance of Team Selling

June 1, 2017

The concept of Team Selling is not new.  However, there have been few times where I have seen it effectively done, especially in small businesses.  Many times, organizational structure and the way sales and people are compensated get in the way of Team Selling.  The more complex the sale the more important team selling becomes.  Yet many small businesses are reluctant to have team selling.  Maybe because they are too rigid on what they feel everyone’s role in the organization is.  Maybe because the owner does not like to be involved in the actual sales process, or feels that team selling is too expensive.    Whatever the excuse is get over it, and think about how Team Selling can improve Sales.  I assure you that if done effectively, it is by far the most effective way of selling.  Why?

  1. It gives credibility to the Company rather than just the Sales person.
  2. Buyers connect better to people of like mind and background frequently than to sales people.
  3. Prospects and Customers get better answers quicker from the team.
  4. It gets buy-in from different departments in your company.
  5. Better communication within the company on actual customer’s needs, and opportunities.
  6. Self-Accountability from all parties in the team, and better collaborative decisions gets everyone engaged.
  7. Your odds for a successful conclusion is dramatically increased.

The team can be just two people or more depending upon your organization.  The Sales person should be put in the role of the Coordinator and Conductor.  The mindset for the team must be that the major goal is to meet the Customer needs.  The Lone Wolf sales person frequently is incapable of working within a team, so be careful.    

Team selling should become a part of the Sales Process.  The teams will vary depending upon what the perceived prospect or client’s needs are.   

Following are some areas where I have seen great success. 

  1. New start-up Enzyme company, brings in the “Technical Expert and PhD”. Prospects see that there is a real company and not a garage operation.
  2. A litigation support company that brings in-house lawyers to speak with prospect lawyers.
  3. Software Development company brings their Software developer with the Sales person with great success.
  4. Spice and Seasoning company brings R&D, plus Production Manager, and Customer Service person in on presentation to assure a large food company that both supply chain and technical needs are met.
  5. Sales person brings in VP of Sales to help in delivering the company message.

Some critical points in developing the team:

  1. Make sure the players are right to the customer.  Every customer is a little different.
  2. Make sure that you do not overwhelm or intimidate the customer by introducing to many team members at once.
  3. Everyone on the team must understand the purpose and importance of them being part of the team.
  4. Hopefully, the sales person is the natural Manager of the team. If not, make sure you have a leader of the team that can bring in others and facilitating the conversation, and staying focused on the desired result.
  5. And finally, plan the Sales meeting. Make sure that people are not going to contradict one another or there are issues between team members which will stop them from getting a successful result. 

So, what actions are you going to take to make this happen? 

The Importance of Softening Sales Questions

January 15, 2017

So, I was with one of my coaching clients, and he feared asking certain questions because he is to direct.  I had to laugh a little.  I have always been accused of being direct.  I guess it is my east coast background of getting to the point.  As one of my bosses said “There are no dumb questions, only dumb answers” Overall asking questions has been a key to my success, but I must admit in a couple of situations I was overly aggressive in my sales probing and may have lost a couple of sales because of it.

I think most sales people have difficulty in asking critical questions and closing sales because they feel it maybe to bold or the relationship may be affected.  Ever heard the statement from management “My sales people do not know how to close.”  The truth is they don’t know how to ask key difficult questions in a diplomatic way.

In some ways, this is understood.  Our whole lives we are taught not to ask to many questions by our parents and our teachers.  Get over it.  If you want to be effective you have to learn to put the “Skunk on the Table” If you are NOT one to be direct you must develop ways to ask the questions with some softening techniques, which will allow you and your prospect to be more comfortable.   I had to learn some of these, but at the same time it is still a struggle not to get to the point quickly.  However, I respect that not everyone is the same, and everyone sells a little differently.  However, there is nothing more important throughout the sales process than asking purposeful questions and listening very intently to the answers.

FREQUENTLY ASKED SALES QUESTIONS REPHRASE OF PREFACE
What’s your background and how did you get started in the business? If you don’t mind, what is ….
What is it that you like and do not like about your current service provider? If you don’t mind me asking, what is it….
If you don’t solve this problem, how will it affect your company and you personally? If I may be so bold, if you ….
What is stopping you from deciding now and buying my solution? From what we discussed, what is …….
Is there anyone else involved in the decision? Knowing the importance of this decision for the company will there be any others involved in the decision making?
Do you see a benefit in what we offer? From the various benefits, we discussed, which would best serve you and your organization?
You said that ……. Correct me if I am wrong, what I heard is ……….

 

I am sure there are other phrases that you can think of that may be as good or better than some that I just listed.  Here are some others which may be helpful.

  • The only reason I am asking is ….
  • Don’t take this the wrong way, I need to better understand ….
  • May I offer my help in presenting this program to influencers of the decision?

If you have other thoughts on this subject, I am greatly appreciative for your input.  Please share your comments below:

 

 

How Micromanaging is affecting Sales?

October 31, 2016

If you have started a business, or you were the first salesperson and its growing one of the most difficult things is to let go, and NOT Micromanage.  The strengths that got your business running may be your weaknesses in making it go to the next level.    If you ever desire to make the company go beyond where it is at, then you must stop micromanaging. This may be the most difficult aspect of your business career to change.   If you are not sure if you are a micro-manager check off on the following:

  1. You have more work than you can handle because you do not feel comfortable delegating to anyone else.
  2. Despite hiring people, you are still the only one that can sell in the company.
  3. You go crazy when people do not follow the processes developed to the letter.
  4. You need to know what everyone is doing, all the time
  5. Despite asking people for feedback on things and requesting for ideas you do not get answers.

If this sounds familiar, then what can you do about it.    It’s affecting your company growth and more importantly affecting your sanity.

 

What to do about it?

  1. Take a very long look in the mirror.  Perhaps you truly like being involved in everything and know this is a fault.  What will you do if you are not working in the business 24/7.  Please get a life.  My best answer is to get a business coach like myself.  Or, join a peer advisory group like my SBC group to get honest open feedback.  Sorry for the self-promotion.   I will even suggest someone else if you do not feel it is a good fit.
  2. Another very simple answer is to hire the right people and trust them. In this case, it is better to micromanage the hiring process, then wind up micromanaging once hired.  Benchmark your ideal employee, use the right assessments tools from VPT Enterprises or HPI Solutions, get other valued employees opinions, take your time, but hire right and 50% of the micromanagement problem is gone.
  3. Start managing the process and not the people. Remember processes are road maps not railroad tracks.  Make sure your processes have some flexibility, and that you accept that everyone is going to handle things a little differently.
  4. Don’t mistaken accountability with micromanagement. They are very different. If you are unsure read the following Accountability vs. Micromanagement.  The people that are complaining about your Micromanagement maybe complaining about being held accountable.
  5. Invite dissent and difficult communication. There are two important results you will see.  Your team will embrace you more as a leader.  The people have a vested interest and responsibility in making something work that they so aggressively advocated for.  For further reading on this see Confident Leaders Invite Dissent  or read 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

I hope this has been of some help.  I am happy to entertain and discuss any points that have been made and look forward to your comments.

You Did not win that RFP, what’s next?

August 30, 2016

 

Has this happened to you?

 

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

Then 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.

On Boarding

 

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 efforts of our people if there is no true basis for doing business.

The first mistake was just giving a presentation without being very specific as far as what attracted your prospect’s interest.  Never give a presentation, if you do not know what is important to the prospect, and focus your whole presentation around it.  The prospect is only mildly interested in all the other things your company does.

The second mistake was in doing the RFP without first asking some of the following questions:

  1. Other than price what criteria is important to the prospect?
  2. Has there been an issue with the previous supplier?
  3. What additional information do you need from the prospect to make sure that they are comparing apples to apples?
  4. Is your timeline the same as theirs?
  5. Are they willing to take suggestions to their RFP, which may reduce costs, or improve the project overall?
  6. Will you be allowed to present the RFP face to face, and ask some of these questions?

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, do you really want to do business with them?  You must 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.

In many 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 me your situation and thoughts and let’s see if I can help you do a better job of winning the bid.

 

 

 

 

Part II:  The Fearless Salesperson

July 6, 2016

So last month I talked about the fearless salesperson, and got some very interesting comments.  One comment from my old boss and close friend for 30 years ago. “ Allan you were not only fearless you were ever persistent.”

There are many ways to improve sales.  Better questions, being more fearless, being customer focused, targeting better, closing more, filling the pipeline, better body language, and more and more.

However, if you cannot persevere and follow up consistently none of these improvements will dramatically help.  I do not know what it is today, but people just don’t follow up.  The average salesperson follows up 1.5 times when the average sale is made over 8 contacts.

Please someone tell me what is the problem.  I know you don’t want to be a pest.  Are you being honest with yourself?  Are you really saying, you don’t think your product or service is of real benefit to the prospect?  Or, you don’t want to belittle yourself by contacting them multiple times.  If you truly believe you are not being a pest if you truly believe this will help the customer.

Let’s set the scenario.  You thought you had a good meeting with a prospect, and then you call him/her back and there is no response.  Sometimes you e-mail them back and no response.  DON’T GIVE UP.

GIVE UP, if you feel that there truly is no basis for business.

GIVE UP, if you feel that your product or service has no value or benefit to the customer.

GIVE UP, if you really do not understand the problem and implications of that problem to their business or you are unable to quanitify the pain.

E-mail them, text them, furnish third party testimonials and references, but DON’T GIVE UP.

Be bold, be fearless, and be persistent.

 

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