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Best Practices for Sales Management

February 29, 2016

Having an effective Sales Team starts with having an effective Sales Manager.  There is no greater position in the company to influence the direction and success of the company than Sales Manager.  Yet many of these folks are untrained for the position, and are so distracted by the latest fire drill, that they neglect their main job – Making their teams successful.

1. To many Sales Managers focus too much on metrics and not enough on coaching to drive performance. Which of these areas are most effecting your sales people and how can you help them other than metrics?

  1. Managing Priorities / Time Management
  2. Having a Positive Attitude about the company and co-workers
  3. Improving their selling skills.
  4. Improving their communication skills with internal staff.
  5. Finishing what they have started. This means following up with the customers and with internal requests.
1. Make Sure that the Compensation Package Reflects the Culture and Goals of the company – This one thing can make the Sales Manager’s job a lot easier. Most small business sales compensation packages are strictly focused on revenue generation and NOT on culture and goals. A mixture is all three are important.  However, it must be kept simple enough so that it can be reviewed.  Here are just a few areas, which can be incorporated into the compensation package.  In some cases, you may want to deal with a point system, ratio, or a percentage. I am sure there are more that can be added.
  1. Gross Profit
  2. Forecasting
  3. Achieving goal and above goal
  4. Followed Up Leads from Marketing
  5. Lead Response Time
  6. Prospecting Leads
  7. Referral leads
  8. Documented Follow Ups of Contacts
  9. Demonstrations
  10. Customer Retention
  11. Quantified team involvement in Sales Process
  12. Current Account Receivables.
3. Managing, and improving the Sales Process – The Sales process is a road map not a railroad track.  Use the tool to teach and track performance in real time.  As the company grows processes become more and more important.  Most sales people think there is no process, and the Manager’s do not hold them accountable.  It must be emphasized that this process is to help them be better.  Avoid the CRM becoming a data dump, and make it into a Sales Process tool.
4. Coaching daily at the moment of the situation – To re-emphasize, the Sales Manager’s number 1 job is coaching and training.  Do not take over a sales situation because it is easier and quicker.  You are a coach not a player.  When there are situations which require displaying or correction do not hesitate.  Do not allow more than 24 hours to go by without addressing difficult situations with sales people and customers.  And do not lose the opportunity to coach.
5.Dealing with Top Performers – Effective Sales Managers know how to deal with these highly competitive, performance and conflict producers. The Michael Jordon’s and the Tiger Woods of Sales forces still need someone to keep them in line and to maximize their performance.  This can be difficult at times.  However, I have seen many a company being held hostage by Top Performers that do not adhere to the culture and direction of the company.  It is the Sales Manager’s job to diplomatically keep those folks in check.
Please feel free to contact me via phone 480-220-4296, or e-mail allan@salescoachaz.com

Difficulties in Hiring a Sales Manager

January 31, 2016

There is no more critical position that Sales Manager in an organization.  Make a bad hire here and it will take at least 2 years to recover.   I recently participated in a benchmarking process with my friend and colleague Diana Gats of VPT Enterprise.  Diana is a growth Specialist and Business Advisor.

It was an interesting exercise in that what my expectations of a Sales Manager were and what the clients were somewhat different.  I understand the need in many small businesses the need to have a Sales Manager that has key accounts.  The Sales Manager does not have to be the top Salesperson to demand respect and accountability.  I feel that by Sales Managers calling on accounts it deters them from doing the key responsibilities and skills needed to run an effective Sales Organization.

From my perspective the 9 top key priorities of a Sales Manager are as follows:

  • Coaching and collaborating – Will your new Sales Manager be able to utilize the established sales people’s background, knowledge, and relationships effectively. Or, will their style turn off your top performers.  It’s not easy coming into an established sales organization and setting a new path.
  • Holding people accountability – Another Blog I wrote Creating an Accountability Sales Culture is critical in hiring a Sales Manager. Accountability starts with the Sales Manager.  If he/she cannot demonstrate to you when hiring that they have self-accountability, how can they hold sales people accountable.   Following up is a critical skill and characteristic.
  • Keeping the Sales People Positive – NO one doubts the difficulty of selling. If you are doing your job, you may be getting more no’s then yesses.  When sales people become negative they easily translate to the customer even when they think they don’t.  They are your face to the customer.  If they do not feel like they are being supported or are being constantly harangued, then they get worse not better.  Sales Managers must always find ways to make the sales people better and in that way more positive about the company and themselves.
  • Understand the Financials – I laugh when I see business owners not wanting to share at least some of the financial information with Sales Managers. Then one hears the complaint that they those damn sales people only sell on price.  A Sales Manager must understand the whole picture not just sales and marketing.
  • Managing the Sales Process – You already have spent money on a CRM that is supposed to increase your sales but has become a data dump. Either you did not have a Sales Process to begin with or no one is managing it.  This is where sales are really lost, or prolonged.  Of course, following rules goes against the normal high flying sales person.  This means that the Sales Manager has to be creative in bringing everybody on board and show how it is important and helpful for the sales person to follow the process.
  • Shortening the Sales Cycle and the Sales Process – You cannot shorten the cycle if you do not have a clear understanding of the process. Making it easier and quicker for everyone involved is important for the Sales Manager to help the sales people and the company.
  • Embracing Technology – To many Sales Managers are living in the past. Technology is your friend and can help accelerate the many processes or pricing, communication, and minimize mistakes.
  • Ability to hire and attract top sales talent – What is going to attract new top talent to your company if the Sales Manager doesn’t have this innate skill.
  • On-Boarding New Sales Representatives – Can the Sales Manager put together a detailed agenda for a new hire, and make sure there is an understanding of the company culture, why buy from the company.

Notice that none of these are experience in the industry or relationships.  These are short lived values which you may or may not get benefit from in the first year, but beyond that and for the sake of the sales people hire for these skills, motivation, and how well they fit in your culture.

I hope this has been helpful and gives you some further thoughts.  If you would like to comment, please join the conversation, e-mail me, or just pick up the phone and call.

Is Knowing the Prospect’s Budget Important?

December 1, 2015

As a follow up to my Quantifying/ROI blog, I see many sales people either give up or start lowering prices like crazy because a prospect has stated a budget that is very low.  Help the customer and yourself by quantifying the problem.  In this way, you and they can say whether their budget is reasonable or if there is a further basis to do business.

I was reviewing SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham.  SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff.  He has many examples of implication and Need-Payoff questions, which are vital in helping your prospect have a complete picture of what the implications are we they do not buy.   Once they put a dollar figure to the whole problem the budget seems totally secondary.  Or the problem may not be big enough to warrant your solution.  The point is that unless you put a number to the problem NOT the budget, you have no idea if your solution is worth it.

Here are some examples:

Example 1:  The Company needs to reduce inventory.  Questions you may want to ask are as follows:

What benefits would you get from a lower inventory levels besides just cost? Would reduce warehousing space be an advantage?  Can we quantify it?  Can you use that space for more production?  Do you have any idea how that will help your company and can we put a $ figure to it.

Let the buyer describe his or her benefits and quantify them, not you.

Example 2: The Company loses yield or has an unacceptable reject rate on finished products.  They believe that a new filter would help, but have a budget of only $50,000 to spend.   Questions you may want to ask are as follows:

So, you said you are looking for a new filter.  Could you please tell me how much yield you are losing?

Answer:  About 5%.

Can we put a number to it on a yearly basis?

Answer:  About $350,000 / year.

And how many years have you had this problem?

Answer:  5 years which is $1,7M.  Wow, I never thought of it in that way.

Okay then.  I realize your budget is only $50,000.  I have a solution which is going to cost $100,000 which will give you a payback in 3.5 months.  What is necessary to get this approved?  Or do you need help in presenting this idea to your CFO?

IN CONCLUSION: Of course budgets are important.  They are good qualifiers.  However, there are circumstances when the stated budget is inconsequential.  If you have not read SPIN SELLING book or been exposed to its principles you should spend the time.  For those that are interested I have an Executive Summary.  Just e-mail me and I will send it to you.

 

Are Many of the B2B Buying Decisions Emotional?

November 9, 2015

My last blog talked about showing an ROI.  Even then you still might not get the sale.  I have no real research whether most decisions are based on Logic or Emotion?  However, from experience and from what I have read, there are an extremely high number of big business decisions that are based on emotion.  Yet the big question is WHY doesn’t the average salesperson recognize those decisions as emotional and address them?

I have one client that showed by using their service the company could save over 40% in their costs, and the prospect still did not buy.  I have personally seen competitors give very deep discounts and still not gotten the business.

How many times have I heard from salespeople that they buy from me because I have a great relationship?   That means that the sale is based more on emotion than logic.  So salespeople rely on customers emotions, but don’t know how to use prospects emotions to get new business.  Instead they focus on building relationships.

Perhaps there is a fear of getting to personal, or fear of the answers.  People you can do it, and have very little to lose except showing a concern for your buyer.

Think about the last 10 large purchase decision you made either for your profession or personally.  Were they totally logical?  Your house, your car, or that new computer system in the office what lead you to the final decision to buy?  Yet I bet you told that salesperson that didn’t get the business that it was a matter of price or you were not ready to buy.  So why when you put on your sales hat do you think that the guy on the other side of the table is a totally logical unemotional decision maker?  There are other demonstrative reasons that are stopping him/her from buying.

  1. If I am wrong, what will my boss say?
  2. I really do not like this salesperson, and would prefer to buy from my current supplier.
  3. Everything sounds great, but I never heard of this company before and do not know if they can back up what they say.
  4. What they said is quite logical, but I have not heard the downside? I do not want to be caught blindsided.
  5. Great program but it is really a lot of work for me to get instituted, and I have other more important things on my plate that take a priority.
  6. Who else has done this? I don’t want to be first.
  7. I don’t like being a follower, and just because everybody else has it doesn’t mean that I have to take it.

There can be simple questions like:

  1. How has or will this decision affect you personally?
  2. How does this affect the job you are doing?
  3. How are your bosses judging your performance?
  4. If you were to take my product/service on how will this affect you?
  5. If you do not get this problem resolved what will that mean to you?
  6. Do you consider buying my product/service a risk? If so, what can we do to minimize?

I am sure you can think of many others.  If you have not addressed this issue you really should

Quantifying The Problem and the Pain

October 30, 2015

Sales teaches to focus on the problem or pain.  However, if you have not quantified your prospect’s problem, you are definitely losing a lot of sales with typical excuses like “cost too high” and “not ready yet”, or “not in the budget”.  Quantifying the problem is so important,  not only the sales person, but  more importantly, for the prospect.  Quantifying a problem has to result in an ROI (return on investment), and consequently, dollar savings.  It changes the perspective of your product or service from something of cost to an investment.  Quantifying can be difficult and it may start with some assumptions.  There may be a soft cost which starts with percent of time lost, employee absenteeism, percent of rework, yield loss, employee retention, down manufacturing time, or down computer time.  However, unless it is quantified into dollars it does not become total reality.

If you are selling to an engineer or an IT person who has to get approval from a CFO, you will be helping them overcome objections and talk financially.  Don’t be as concerned about their budget as much as quantifying their problem.  Until you  put a dollar number to their problem, your solution has not solved anything.  Your solution may cost more than the problem, and you don’t even know it.    However, it is quite possible that the company can have a ROI which justifies investing in your solution, even though it is way beyond what they have budgeted.  Here are 3 quick examples:

  1. A great example can be seen by   MyPCReports Mr. Jones developed a profit calculator on Employee.  He shows that, if you have 10 people making $60,000 and they waste one hour / day, the company has lost $75,000.
  2. Suppose you are walking into a situation where there is a lack of yield.  Let’s say the customer says that it is 2%.  What does that mean in dollars?  Multiply it over the course of a year, then ask how many years this has been going on to get a truer picture of what the yield loss means.  Now, instead of talking so much about your solution cost, you now can talk about and focus their attention on their ROI.
  3. This applies to almost any situation. Replacing windows saves energy.  How much?  I don’t know, but one can guess about 20%. (Would this statement be stronger as a researched industry average for AZ?) Now take the average monthly energy bill multiply by 12 months and then multiply by 20% or (0.20).

ACTIONS TO TAKE:

  1. Get industry statistics on your particular  industry’s problems and opportunities.
  2. From this, develop a calculator with your salespeople for various situations where your product or service saves time, trouble, or money.
  3. Incorporate into your Sales Process this question:  “Have you quantified this problem with the client?”
  4. Review, Revise, and Improve the Process.

If you would like to have a short free consult on quantification for your particular business, please send me an e-mail, text or call at 480-220-4296.  I am looking forward to your thoughts and ideas.

Customer’s Expectation of Salespeople

August 31, 2015

 

Recently, a childhood friend of mine, Daniel Baitch sent me a book which he co-authored “High Performance Sales Organizations: Achieving Competitive Advantage in the Global Marketplace”. Although it was written in 1995, most of the insights are the same today. For instance:

  1. Today’s customers are more knowledgeable.
  2. Today’s customers are more analytical
  3. Today’s customers are more demanding.
  4. Today’s customers give more strategic information.

This has not changed, and I am sure it will increase even further. So what does that mean as far as customer expectations of salespeople? Does this mean the “Death of the Salespeople”? Following are areas of knowledge which are essential for salespeople to handle Customer’s Expectations.

  1. Comprehensive knowledge of the customer’s industry, company and strategies. I remember years ago calling on customers and asking questions related to the industry. Don’t bore your customer and ask questions that you should already know. Ask questions about common challenges in the industry, or what their strategy is about a known trend. If you do not know anything about the end-user of your customer you better find out. In that way, you can help your customer strategize the end-user needs.
  2. In depth knowledge of their own company’s full range of product and service applications. What’s always amazing to me is to watch salespeople only sell one part of their portfolio, and not spend the time and effort seeing what other product and services a present client may need.   Spend some time being a gatherer. Look for opportunities within the companies you are already servicing. Hopefully if the customer has had a great experience with your present offerings, there will be more opportunities.
  3. A thorough understanding of General Business Management – This point I find most intriguing and most missed when hiring sales people. This means it is not good enough just to hire someone for their ability or experience in one particular field. A salesperson must understand the basics of how a business operates. Do they understand a P&L, inventory management, basic accounting, HR, and operations? How does your product or service affect anyone of these business areas? If your salesperson is calling on procurement one day, a CFO the next, and then a plant manager, do they understand what is important to that particular job function when they are face to face with those folks?

So what actions can your salespeople take today that will assure that you are fulfilling the expectations of your customers? What type of Training is needed to bring your Salespeople into this century? Join the conversation, or contact me to discuss further.

Does Your Salesforce Have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?

July 30, 2015


I am always emphasizing the importance of staying focused.  In fact, one of my salespeople gave me a little clock many years ago which has the proverb:

FOCUS:  if you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

On one hand we encourage an ADD behavior in salespeople.  Get as many leads and prospects in the pipeline and sell, sell, sell.  It’s like sending out 15 fishing lines at once and hoping that one bites.

The fear is that when the fish bites will they be able to reel it in.  Additionally, we are talking about the “idea a minute” sales force.  Let’s sell this, then let’s sell that without perseverance.  What I mean by that is when you try something one time and it doesn’t work then they just drop it, and say that didn’t work without spending the time and energy analyzing and brainstorming different strategies to make it work.  This new product and service may be best for the company, but because it is harder to sell it never gets off the ground.

Reasons may be that the target market was wrong,  or the wrong message, or not understanding the competitive landscape.  I have participated in many situations where with just a little bit of tweaking the message or asking the right questions the sales business started coming to fruition.  There is no exact science or process in sales, just the mentality of continuous improvement.

 

Why Do They Have ADD?

I hate to say it Mr. Entrepreneur but many times this ADD starts with you.  If you have not clearly stated the Vision, Goals, and Strategies to the Salespeople, they are going to just try and sell whatever they can.  It’s up to you to put the company on the right tract.  Now maybe it’s not you, but it’s your Sales manager who has not gotten the message.

Another reason for having ADD is not really understanding what the Customer needs.  A sales force that is NOT customer focused will just try and sell anything that you have got to anybody that is willing to listen.  This costs your business a lot of time and money.

It is a fine balance. While working with some European company companies I found the opposite may be true.  They were so focused on selling only to what they knew, that they were not open to selling to companies that might have a great use for their products and services. That really does not work either. 

How to Recognize if Your the Salesforce Has ADD?  

 

If there is always a new modification or customization requested by your Salesforce to your product or service.  It If the reason they are giving for slow sales is that what you are offering never is never good enough. for the sales force.

  1. The sales people are always asking for a better price.
  2. When asked there are always these great prospects that you are going to make millions on, which never seem to come to fruition (close).
  3. The prospects are not responding with questions or not at all to your salespeople on a regular basis.

What Do You Do About It?

STEP 1:  Write out a simple 2-Page Bullet Point Action Plan for 1 year.  It should include a clear Vision, Actionable Critical Goal (2 maximum) and then some strategies and actions.

STEP 2:  Share it with your Sales Manager or your sales people directly and ask if this can be achieved.  First talk about the positive, and then discuss what the obstacles could be and ways to solve them.

STEP 3:  Monitor the activities toward the Action Plan on a Monthly basis and share the results.

STEP 4: Remember to be consistent.

For further discussion, please comment, give me a call, or write me an e-mail.

 

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