Quick give me ten. If you go to see a customer and the advertiser asks why he should advertise with you, what would you say? Could you give several reasons? Ten? Here are several questions you frequently hear, each with ten good reasons why.
*Suggestion: print these back-to-back as a sales sheet (click titles for link)
Article by Chris Butterwick. The PACE Partners. Published in PM Forum Magazine
A common concern that I hear from clients very often these days is “We’re not converting opportunities the way we should be”.
In the same vein, clients tell me that they and their colleagues often have meetings with good quality prospects which they have felt very positive about following an hour or more of friendly, constructive discussion. Such meetings often conclude with lots of positive words from the prospect all the way out of the meeting room, through reception and to the office building lifts or exit.
We’ve all experienced it: “That went really well, I reckon there’s lots of opportunity, especially with that XYZ project” or “He was eating out of our hands!” or “We can definitely dislodge their current advisors”. Invariably a summary report of the meeting is recounted back at the office, high expectations are set and an opportunity is recorded in the CRM system (which of course is included in the firm’s total running pipeline value).
And yet after a couple of weeks there isn’t the response to the follow up that was expected – no response to emails sent and a deafening silence to voicemails left following the seemingly fantastic meeting. Or if there is a response, it is muted, non-committal and basically nothing transpires. The high expectations start to diminish.
So what’s going on?
Much of the answer is in what we call “The Pounce”.
When I drill down into the specific circumstances of meetings of this kind that have not met expectations, in many cases it becomes evident that auto-pilot has been engaged very quickly, and out pops “We can do that!” or “We have a client with the exact same issue so we have plenty of relevant experience” or “Let me tell you how we would solve that problem for you”.
Unsurprisingly this can happen very early in a first meeting because the prospect often has a problem that is very much ‘front of mind’ and so he/she mentions it fairly soon into a discussion, maybe even immediately.
So there’s an opportunity hanging in the air……..
that must be grabbed!
before it disappears!
before I miss it!
And why not?
Because it’s a MISTAKE. By pouncing on an opportunity too early we may as well kiss goodbye to the possibility of working with the prospect right there and then. It’s as simple as that.
But why? Surely we are there to solve problems and start providing the solution that the prospect requires?
That is true, but looking to solve problems as soon as possible may appear to be good business, but it is not necessarily good business development and the proof is in the pudding – in the subsequent emails that elicit no reply and the voice messages not being returned, in the end manifested by diminished expectations and “We’re not converting opportunities the way we should be”.
By immediately pouncing on an opportunity that has presented itself, all thought of getting to know the prospect’s world goes out the window and from then on it’s “TELLING AND SELLING”.
Telling the prospect how brilliant we are and selling the features of our company, its capabilities and services. So the meeting can very quickly become completely focused on a solution to the prospect’s issue and therefore all about “me, me, me!”
This mistake can be described as “solutionising” and many of our clients admit to moving into solutionising mode as soon as they hear something that they believe they can help with. It’s pretty much an automatic response.
The problem is that solutionising means that all the energy switches from our potential new client to us. They stop talking and therefore giving important information about their world, and we start talking instead.
It’s important to understand that the prospect won’t stop you – they want to have their problem solved, of course they do, so they may actively encourage a discussion. Or they might just sit back, say lovely, positive things occasionally but actually be thinking about the mountain of work sitting on their desk, or their next meeting for which they must not be late. Or worse still: “These people aren’t really interested in my world”.
It’s only a couple of days later, after they have had time to reflect on the fact that the whole meeting was about you, your firm, your expertise etc. that they then start thinking that all you were interested in was the fees involved in being engaged…….and then the follow up emails don’t get a response, and they don’t call back.
What’s the alternative? Well in many ways it’s simple:
Make a note of the problem/opportunity, jot it down in your notebook, and then don’t even think about it – because if you do then you will more than likely have stopped listening, and will certainly have stopped listening actively.
Later, when it’s appropriate, perhaps when summarising what you have gathered from your prospect during the course of the meeting so far, refer to the issue by saying “I’d very much like to discuss XYZ that you mentioned earlier, but before doing so I’d really like to understand the wider context……” In other words, demonstrate an interest in your potential new client’s world – and mean it. Failure to do so will result in wasted emails and telephone calls later, and lots of frustration too!
So rather than come up with solutions at the first opportunity, we would be better off understanding the context of the issue in depth i.e. “What happens if this isn’t solved?”, “What will be the impact on your people, business, future?” Drill down and around the issue so that you really understand it, and at the same time demonstrate your understanding.
By doing this and by holding back on proposing the solution until the prospect is ready to buy and become a new client, we are much more likely to present a solution that is a better, indeed a perfect fit to their requirements and to their “world”.
Disengaging our auto-pilot, our need to tell the prospect how knowledgeable we are and how good we are at solving the “exact same problem you have Mr Smith”………is harder than it may sound, simply because it’s an automatic response so our tendency to engage our auto-pilot is VERY strong, and habits like solutionising are somewhat hard wired.
But with practice, some clear thinking and confidence, disengaging our auto-pilot can be done – by biting our tongue, making a note of the opportunity, drawing a star in our notepad, and then at the appropriate time later in the meeting, going back to it. Or better still, using the opportunity to create the motivation (meaning energy from the prospect, not from ourselves) for a follow up meeting: “I’d really like to discuss XYZ in more depth, let’s meet again in a week or so and between now and then I’ll be able to give the subject some thought, how does that sound?”
And guess what? The prospect will hear four main things:
1. You are a really good listener
2. You are really interested in getting to know my world
3. You are not just selling to me
4. You are thorough and professional
The prospect will more than likely agree to the proposal of a follow up meeting because there is value in it for them, it’s worth their investment of time. And the follow up meeting will provide another opportunity for you to learn more about their world, as well as a deeper understanding of their problem for which you may have a solution.
If the follow up meeting is planned in advance and properly managed, your prospect will develop more trust in you as you demonstrate interest and understanding. In time, they will reveal lots more about their world, to the extent that, when they are ready, you may learn about much bigger opportunities – which dwarf the original opportunity which wasn’t pounced on!
This requires appropriate skills and behaviours, and most of all it requires time – but would we rather invest say, a year in developing a relationship with a valuable long term client of the future, or 45 minutes in meeting a prospect who will then not respond to emails and calls because we pounced on an opportunity and started telling and selling?
Article by Chris Butterwick. The PACE Partners. Published in PM Forum Magazine
Article by Danita Bye, a founder of Sales Growth Specialists, a sales turnaround company that works with clients to build a successful, sustainable sales culture thrives under all market and competitive challenges.
You’re rolling out next year’s goals with an updated sales compensation plan and both you and your staff are nervous. And if you aren’t prepared and thought through your logic, you should be nervous!
It is a fact that adjusting compensation is a tense time for most sales teams. On the one hand, your company needs to both grow sales results and control the budget.
On the other hand, most sales people earn a significant portion of their income from commissions and even if your plan is great for them, you are messing with more than money, you’re impacting their lifestyle.
First, it is important for you and your sales staff to understand that a well-designed compensation plan needs to be tweaked every year due to evolving market conditions and company goals.
Aligning the compensation plan is crucial for a healthy company. In addition, the optimum plan ensures that sales reps continue to earn top dollar when they focus on high value sales activities.
What can you do to make certain that the new sales compensation plan has a positive effect on morale and productivity? Here are five tips:
Keep It Simple. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. A complicated or confusing plan will only frustrate and frighten your staff. Keep the plan as simple and straightforward as possible to motivate allegiance to the new program.
Be Fair. Take a look at your budget percentage for sales compensation. I always recommend that you look at your budget as a percentage of gross margins, not revenue. Then ask yourself these questions:
Is this budget fair for both the company and the employee?
Is the percentage fair for both top performers and under performers?
Does it pay the most for those sales activities which have the most value for the company?
Keep Top Performers Motivated. Every company has a sales budget. To keep in budget, many plans wind up taking too much from the top performers so that they have enough budget left to pay the under performers. Instead, make your plan fair based on percentage of sales, activities and results. If not, your top performers will not be motivated and will eventually leave.
Spell it Out. Create a spreadsheet for each sales rep, inputting their numbers from last year alongside their goals for next year. Model the new sales compensation plan at different levels of performance, ranging from 75% to 150% of their goal. Ask yourself, “Are the goals realistic for a good performer? Are the percentages and rewards fair?” If you can’t answer yes, neither will your sales team.
Not Everyone Needs to Like It. By definition, your under performers do not want to be paid for performance. Consequently, they are going to be resistant. In the end, they need to know that rewards come with results.
Roll It Out One-on-One. Pull your staff aside one at a time to explain the new sales compensation plan, illustrating the expectations and benefits each person will experience individually. Be sure that their questions are answered and that they leave this meeting feeling heard, supported and motivated.
It’s important to think through your approach before rolling out your new plan. There may be a few bumps in the road, but with these tips, you’ll improve your chances for success and a more profitable future.
Article by Danita Bye, a founder of Sales Growth Specialists, a sales turnaround company that works with clients to build a successful, sustainable sales culture thrives under all market and competitive challenges.
Article by Gehard Gschwandtner at Selling Power Blog. He is the founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine.
Take a moment to think about what the word ”selling” means to you. Every time I ask sales executives to define ”selling,” I get answers like these:
Selling is a process of persuasion to get a prospect to take action.
Selling is finding a need and filling that need.
Selling is an exchange of goods or services for money.
Selling is walking the road of agreement with the customer.
Selling is an art.
Selling is a science.
Selling is a transaction.
Selling is relationship building.
Selling is a consultative process.
Selling is hustling.
Selling is all about trust.
There are as many definitions of selling as there are stars in the sky. Everyone has a different definition of the word “selling.”
Once You Define Anything, Your Definition Will Define You
What’s important in this conversation? Once you define what selling is, the definition will influence how you sell. If you believe that selling is an art, then you will try to grow your art, and chances are that you will try to find creative ways to overcome all obstacles that stand in the way of the sale. If you define selling as a science, then you will try to deploy more scientific tools to achieve greater sales. If you believe that selling is all about relationships, chances are that you will focus more on establishing a meaningful emotional and cognitive connection with your prospect.
When Sales Managers Have Finished Defining, They’ve Ended Refining
Sales managers often impose their beliefs about selling to their salespeople. They try to turn every salesperson into a ”mini me.” “Dress like me, act like me, speak like me, and close like me.” They often elevate their definition of selling into a higher level of philosophy that prevents awareness of reality and inhibits growth and professional development. The moment you believe that you can shape what selling means – like a sculptor chips away at a stone until a beautiful statue emerges – you’ve frozen yourself into an untenable position. Someone once said that in order to maintain an untenable position, we must choose to be actively ignorant.
Is There a Better Way of Looking at What Selling Means?
So what’s wrong with sales managers imposing their definition of selling on their salespeople? After all, they are the leaders and salespeople are their subordinates. Isn’t the typical choice, “my way or the highway”? Is there another way of looking at this?
Here is a better way of looking at selling. What we think selling means isn’t relevant. What the sales manager thinks selling means isn’t helping anybody sell more. What we think doesn’t matter as much as what our customers think and what our customers expect from a salesperson. We can’t freeze salespeople into a definition and expect them to warm up to a prospect. Take a look at salespeople in a typical car dealership. Most of them are as rigid as a camshaft. They operate on the good cop/bad cop formula: “Let me ask my sales manager if he will approve that deal.”
The Internet has shifted the power from the seller to the buyer. We’ve shifted from a delay economy to a real-time economy. We have shifted from a predictive approach to an adaptive approach. We’ve shifted from pitching deals to co-creating solutions with our customers. In the Peter Drucker era, companies created customers; in the real-time economy, we have to cocreate with our customers. At the heart of selling is value, the value as defined by the customer’s unique situation. The dynamic of selling will continue to shift. In the future it will be the customer who creates our company.
What Do Customers Want?
Part of good selling is learning up front how our prospects want to buy. If customers want to buy online, we need to offer that choice. If prospects want a simple transaction, don’t go through your relationship mating dance. If a prospect has mapped out a more scientific approach to the buying process, match your selling style to the prospect’s buying style. If prospects want more creative ideas that lead to an artful solution to their problems, tap into your artistic side. Sell the way your customer wants to buy. If you are in doubt about what selling means, just ask your customers. If you want to learn how to sell better, ask your customers. Once you reach the top of your profession, your customers will tell you that you are the best, and you will say, “I still have a lot to learn.”
Article by Gehard Gschwandtner at Selling Power Blog. He is the founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine.
Article by Danita Bye - http://www.salesgrowthspecialists.com
When managers complain that their staff doesn’t have the special fire that keeps them continuously reaching for the brass ring, they are really admitting that they don’t know how to motivate their sales people. When the flame of commitment that drives sales performance is waning, it’s important to understand how to stoke it. There are no one-size-fits-all cures, because differences among people cause them to respond differently to the environment, problems, and challenges, as well as rules and procedures established by others. In other words, they will respond differently to different modes of motivation.
The following ideas will help you get a handle on what makes your staff ticks, so you can answer the million-dollar question: How do I motivate my sales staff?
Help Them Fulfill Both Their Personal Goals and Your Sales Revenue Needs.
First, identify the dreams and aspirations that motivate each sales employee and help that person develop a game plan to achieve specific goals. Understand that no one wakes up and asks how he/she can help the company make record profits this year. Rather, people are more interested in financing college educations, paying bills, buying a vacation home, planning a vacation. These are some of the real reasons they play what can sometimes be the high-rejection game of dispensing hearing instruments.
When a regional manager of one my clients (outside the dispensing field) was performing below his proven ability, I asked the manager where he wanted to be and what he wanted to be doing in 5 years. After I did some probing, he finally admitted that he wanted to retire to a new cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. Although he was passionate about this goal, he hadn’t invested the time to draw up plans or select a lot. Consequently, he had absolutely no idea of the financial requirements needed to fulfill his goal!
Based on our conversation, we devised an action plan to learn what it would take financially to make his dream come true. Three months later, our manager was on track. Why? Because he discovered that his ideal lot was $75,000, and he needed a down payment. Now he’s working enthusiastically to achieve his dream. Along the way his sales have grown by over 38% after having been flat for 4 years.
It’s critical for managers to recall Dale Carnegie’s wise advice: You can get everything you want in life by helping others get what they want. I once asked a recent college graduate during a job interview what she wanted to do when she turned 30. When she told me that she wanted her own business I committed to her that, if she joined my team, I would help her achieve her dreams. During our monthlystrategic sales planning and quarterly review sessions, I frequently asked her about her progress towards her goal, and how I could help her master what she thought she needed in order to be successful at her own business. And after one year, she was the top performing rep….and stayed there for the entire 5 years she was with the company. She is currently general manager of a medical device company—well on her way to owning her own business.
So don’t delay discussing with each hearing instrument professional what personal goals, dreams, and passions make them leap out of bed in the morning. Should you learn that they don’t have any long-term goals, this may be a red flag indicating lack of desire for success or lack of commitment to do the necessary behaviors to be successful. They may not have the needed incentive to tackle new assignments or learn new behaviors that will help them excel.
If this is the case, begin to help your people build and document their “need to excel” through a progression of discussions with them:
- Identify their gifts, talents, passions, etc..
- Identify where they want to be in 3-5 years and 5-10 years
- Identify annual goals that will help them achieve their vision
- Break those annual goals into 30, 90, and 180 day goals
- Translate goals into monthly, weekly, and daily game plans
If an employee has difficulty formulating their long-term personal goals and dreams, you’ll need to determine what short-term motivators you can tap. For instance, does the individual have a strong need for personal and/or team recognition? Are they motivated by results, team accomplishments, or amount of work accomplished?
Sales Motivation helps keep the momentum flowing. No matter what motivator(s) you focus on, make sure your sales management process supports activity and behavior levels that deliver desired results.
Talk Their Language to improve sales performance
Become familiar with each person’s communication style, and learn to communicate in a way that resonates with that person. Widely acclaimed executive manager Lee Iacocca says it best: “Communication is everything.” You may be the boss, but people respond to those whom they relate well.
In discovering their communication style, you’ll also find out their natural motivation gifts. Is it:
- Results and control.
- Being involved and recognition.
- Security and stability, or
- Will the accuracy be in order?
Understanding these motivators will provide a framework for communicating in a manner that will make the person feel most receptive. The DISC Behavioral Style sales assessment tool I use provides distinct guidelines for talking to salespeople in each of the above four behavioral categories: for instance, whether to pose specific/direct questions or emotional/feeling questions; whether to offer statistics or analogies and stories to make a point; and how to regulate tone and inflection.
Here’s an example: Walt, a sales manager at a medical software company, was frustrated with his sales people because they didn’t follow his sales process. Conversely, his sales people were irritated with him because they felt that Walt “micro-managed” them with his processes. It was a standoff in which neither side was winning.
When we examined their communication and behavior styles, we found that Walt’s natural management gifts were his precision, attention to quality work, and timely follow-up. But one of his sales people, Dale, had different natural gifts—optimism, enthusiasm and relationship-building skills. Details burdened (and bored) him.
Once Walt and Dale, his most vocal sales rep, began to understand each others behavior and style, it became easier to negotiate activity and performance benchmarks, enabling them to work together synergistically. Walt learned to augment his analytical style and create a collaborative working environment. He learned to ask emotional/feeling questions in lieu of overly direct questions. To emphasize points, he used analogies and stories instead of statistics. To reciprocate, Dale learned how to prepare his detailed case with sufficient backup data in advance.
Identify Weaknesses in Their Belief Systems to improve sales performance.
Next, identify the team’s beliefs about dispensing and new business development. Once those beliefs are identified, you must be willing to provide resources to address weak spots. What do I mean by weak spots? Objective Management Group, a company specializing in sales-force evaluations, identifies several issues that can sabotage performance. With disappointing results, motivation can quickly erode.
OMG has found that dispensing professionals who are uncomfortable talking about money during the dispensing process are 25% less effective in convincing clients to purchase hearing instruments than their counterparts. The firm finds that 55% of those assessed demonstrate a money weakness. Aside from the actual evaluation tool, one may detect a money weakness from a dispensing professional who continually reports that clients don’t have enough money. Or they frequently ask management to lower prices in order to “close the deal.”
Another belief-system glitch is a strong need for approval. Dispensing professionals who find it difficult to ask tough, business-appropriate questions and fear rejection are 35% less effective than their counterparts. They may have a full pipeline, but very little ever seems to leave it. OMG finds that 45% of the people involved in sales have this weakness.
If your people have an intense desire to be successful and are unconditionally committed to success, one of your responsibilities, as a manager is to provide resources to help them maximize every opportunity. In teaching them how to overcome their own fears and weaknesses, such as a money weakness or a need for approval, you create an environment where success breeds success.
After you uncover your salespeople’s unsupportive beliefs, you can “surgically” use sales coaching to provide them with tools to help them be successful.
Kevin, a knowledgeable salesperson at a start-up medical software company, was very discouraged and ready to quit. Exceeding the 2004 revenue target seemed impossible. Frustrated, he confessed that he could not close the deals that he had lined up in the pipeline. Prospects seemed to have either “no money” or “not enough budgeted.” When questioned, he admitted that he viewed discussing money as “impolite” and “none of his business.” After a couple of months of training and coaching, Kevin’s comfort level soared, and he continues to close larger and larger deals. He surpassed his 2004 target and has a solid foundation for over-achieving his 2005 goals.
Understand Their Values that affect their sales behavior
In contrast to behavioral assessments, which help explain how a person behaves and performs in the work environment, understanding an individual’s attitudes helps explain why they behave as they do. In order to maximize performance, it’s essential for the manager to understand the values that motivate each team member.
Yet, attitudes behind one’s behavior are not always readily observed, which is why they’re sometimes called “hidden motivators.” One of my favorite assessment tools measures the relative prominence of 6 basic interests or attitudes: Theoretical, Utilitarian, Aesthetic, Social, Individualistic and Traditional. The report helps illuminate and amplify some motivating factors and serves as a foundation for building on the strengths that each person brings to the work environment.
For example, our manager, Walt, ranked high Utilitarian, while his sales person, Dale, ranked high in Social. This difference was a source of frustration for Walt when the company, in growth mode, needed to focus on improving account penetration with increased revenue per account and increasing the number of clients.
Here’s why: Dale covered a large geographical territory—Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota—which involved a significant expense in keeping him on the road. Each face-to-face visit needed to be maximized and yield a return-on-investment. However, Dale’s social motivation made his primary interest “helping” his clients even if the transaction didn’t earn him or the company any money. He routinely made out-of-the-way trips—some that cost up to 4 hours—to help even small clients. In understanding Dale’s values, Walt was able to re-frame the purpose of the travel so that both needs were met.
Clarify Minimum and High-Performance Sales Expectations
In addition to understanding communication styles, weakness in their belief system, and values, it’s imperative to clearly define “base-line” and “brass-ring” performance. An accurate understanding of activity and result minimums (base-line), as well as over-achievement (brass ring) is one of the first steps in building a motivational success system. These clearly defined expectations help salespeople focus their efforts. As John Condry, a management expert with Career Success Seminars, says, “People are paid in direct proportion to how well they manage their time and their accounts.”
Jim, the owner of a private audiology clinic, was disappointed with his staff audiologists’ performance. He was even more frustrated with his staff’s apparent disregard for fitting the minimum number of instruments in order to cover overhead costs.
I asked some questions that uncovered the source of the problem: Did they know their baseline: What do they need to produce in order to keep the doors open? Did they know what they needed to produce in order to pay for themselves? Jim quickly realized that he needed to communicate minimum performance expectations and ask his staff to step up their level of effort.
As we worked through the process, Jim also decided that he needed to be clear about what a “brass ring” in his company looked like. He needed to specify what each person needed to produce in order to be recognized as having an outstanding “report card,” which would translate into additional growth opportunities, an accelerated compensation plan, and other company perks.
In summary, you can successfully motivate your sales people when you understand their goals and help them achieve their dreams. Flexibility in management style enables sales people to be more successful in an environment that supports their personal work style. And when they understand what is expected of them, they will rise to meet those expectations.
1. Bye D. Five steps to building a great team. The Hearing Review. 2003;10;(7):28-31.
2. Bye D. Creating a team culture of personal accountability. The Hearing Review. 2004;11,(4):40-44, 69.
3. Bye D. Coaching for Entrepreneurs. The Hearing Review. 2004;11;(12):38-42.
Article by Danita Bye - http://www.salesgrowthspecialists.com Danita can be reached at Danita@SalesGrowthSpecialists.com, 612-267-3320 or 800-256-2799.
Nationally recognized sales management and leadership expert Danita Bye built her reputation on building and inspiring process-oriented, no excuse, high-performance sales teams that deliver bottom line results. With her unique Fortune-100-turned-entrepreneur perspective, Danita helps CEOs and company presidents take their businesses to the next level. Her practical, no-nonsense approach to sales management, combined with her leadership acumen, enables sales leadership to increase sales, creating predictable revenue streams.
Article by Dave Kahle at http://www.davekahle.com
That’s probably the question I’m asked more than any other. Frustrated distributor CEO’s and sales managers express that thought over and over, in one way or another. They’re talking about their salespeople, of course. They harbor a feeling that some of their salespeople just aren’t doing what they want them to do, and they don’t know what to do about it.
If that thought occasionally passes through your mind, read on.
“What do you want them to do?” I often reply.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “What an obvious question. We want them to sell a lot, of course.”
But that response is too vague and coarse to hold any real meaning in today’s world. A few years ago, it was OK to direct your salespeople to “Go forth and sell a lot,” but today that direction is not sufficient. Salespeople are capable of more than that. And, the world in which your company operates has changed significantly in the last few years. Our economy has grown increasingly complex, many markets are maturing, the demands and expectations of your customers are growing, your customers’ choices of ways to satisfy their needs are multiplying, and information technology is growing more powerful and user friendly. All that means that you need to more finely direct your sales force than at any time in the past. Successful sales management in the approaching 21st century world requires a more sophisticated answer from you than just “Go forth and sell.”
I learned that lesson the hard way in my days as a distributor rep. I was doing a great job selling in my largest account. That one customer accounted for about 30% of my total volume. Sales were increasing monthly, and my visibility and influence in the account was growing. If my boss wanted me to “Go forth and sell a lot,” I was doing it!
Then, one dismal Monday afternoon, I was sheepishly greeted by my primary contact person, and informed that I was to see the Director of Purchasing. The news from the director was short and to the point. The Materials Manager had signed a prime vendor contract with my arch-competitor. Over the next 90 days, they would be fazing out all of my business and turning it over to my competitor. All of my contact people were disappointed and not in favor of this move, but it had been negotiated by people in higher places.
The moral of the story?
I was doing a great job of “going forth and selling a lot.” But I should have been getting to know the administrative people and my contact’s bosses. If I had been directed to do that, instead of being focused on getting the easiest sales, I may have been able to ward off the end-around by the competition.
I realize that a case could be made that I should have known to do that on my own. After all, don’t good salesmen know to do those kinds of things? No. I didn’t, and I was a heavy hitter, high-income straight commission salesman. But I was driven by a straight commission compensation program that rewarded me for gross profits in the short term, and I never thought to cover all my bases by calling on my customers’ bosses.
But that’s just one example. Here’s another. One of my clients owns a small but rapidly growing equipment distributorship. Every month his salespeople must count certain pieces of equipment in their territories. Each month he selects a piece of equipment, and requires his sales force to count how many of those there are, where they are, how old they are, what brand they are, and when they are scheduled to be replaced.
He uses that information to make territory and product line forecasts, as well as a basis for developing more sophisticated joint marketing plans with his partner-vendors. I’m sure you’ll agree — that’s good information to have. But don’t the salespeople do those kinds of things on their own? Do they really need that kind of precise direction from management?
Take a little self-test. Consider each of your salespeople, one at a time. Ask yourself, “Is …(salesperson’s name)…. systematically collecting that kind of market information on his or her own?”
If your answer is a 100% “yes,” will you please write to me so that I can note your sales force as the single national exception?
Those two examples illustrate just two of hundreds of possible behaviors you could expect from your sales force. In each case, the company’s long-term strategic interests were best served by directing the sales force to behaviors that probably wouldn’t happen in the absence of that direction.
So, the first step in getting your sales people “to do what you want’em to,” is to decide “what you want’em to do.”
Ideally, those things proceed directly from your strategic plan. For example, if your strategic plan says that you want to penetrate a new market segment, then you should expect your salespeople to make X calls per month on that segment, or create X new customers within that segment, or do X amount of sales with that segment, or achieve X amount of gross profit with that segment.
The first step is to develop your strategic plan, and then to create expectations for your sales force that directly support that strategic plan.
What, you don’t have a strategic plan? That’s too bad, you’re definitely at a disadvantage. But, you’re not disqualified. Just start at step two, and create precise expectations for your sales force. Develop a list of the three to ten most important things you want them to do.
Bringing in a certain amount of sales or gross profits should be one of them, but only one of them.
Next, make sure that your list of expectations are easily, accurately and fairly measurable. This can be difficult. Much of your ability to manage your sales force depends on your ability to measure sales behaviors.
If you’re highly automated and use effective sales force software, it’ll be a snap. If you’re not effectively automated, it’ll be much more difficult. For example, one of my clients wanted his sales force to call on new prospects. His business was growing, and his salespeople were happy. But he was sure that there was additional market share to be had in accounts that were not being cultivated. He felt his straight commissioned salespeople were content to call on their friends, and weren’t doing the harder work of calling on new prospects. He wasn’t automated, and didn’t believe his veteran sales force would accurately and thoroughly complete weekly call reports.
His sales cycle (capital equipment) was long, and he didn’t want to wait until he saw actual sales numbers. Those sales could occur 12 to 18 months after the first sales call. He determined to measure his sales forces’ activity, (calling on new prospects) not the results (sales to new prospects).
We struggled with a way to easily, fairly and accurately measure the activity of calling on new prospects. As we discussed the possibilities, we realized that every customer’s name was on the database. We also noted that every quote was produced by a sales assistant in the office, who typed each quote individually for all the salespeople.
Bingo! Suppose we had the sales assistant keep track of quotes made to companies not on the database?
We couldn’t measure sales calls made to prospects, but we could measure the next best thing — quotes made to new prospects. The system would be easy, accurate, and fair.
Having decided that, it was an easy step to give each salesperson a quarterly expectation for the number of “quotes made to new prospects.” Our strategic initiative, “Gain market share,” turned into a measurable expectation for each salesperson, “Generate X quotes per month to prospects not on the database.”
Let’s review: Step one, develop a strategic plan. Step two, create a set of the 3 – 10 most important sales behaviors. Step three, fine tune them until they are easily, fairly and accurately measurable.
Here’s step four: Measure and reward the behavior you want. That can mean anything from publishing and posting those numbers every month, to revising your compensation formula, to making their pay dependent on performance of those activities. For example, you could measure the performance of the entire sales force each month, and post it conspicuously for everyone to see. In my business, we measure five sales activities, combine the individual numbers, and post the composites for everyone to see. We post monthly totals, year to date, this year’s goals, and last year’s monthly totals, year to date, this year’s goals, and last year’s numbers.
As an alternative, you may measure and post each salesperson’s performance individually. You can report each salesperson’s performance to him/her alone, and talk about it in monthly conferences.
Another technique is to make those numbers a topic for discussion at monthly sales meetings.
But if you really want to add some power, refine your sales compensation plan to make each person’s pay dependent on performance on those numbers. This is not an article on sales force compensation. That’s an entire series of articles on its own. (Call or fax me a request and I’ll send you several of my articles on sales force compensation). However, it’s been my observation that most sales compensation plans do not reward the behavior that they say they want. The company’s executives say they want salespeople to do one thing, but their compensation plan rewards them for doing something else.
For example, you may be paying your salespeople straight commission based on gross profits. Yet, you may be expecting them to open new accounts, promote certain product lines, or emphasize certain accounts. When you pay them purely by commission, you reward them for the easiest, richest sales. So, your compensation plan says one thing, while you say something else. No wonder it’s frustrating.
To encourage your sales people to do what “you want’em to,” line your sales compensation plan up directly with your strategic plan. Directly reward those three to ten behaviors that you developed earlier. Consider a performance-based plan that pays them for implementing the company’s strategies.
Finally, step five is the single most powerful way to manage your people once you’ve done all this homework. Hold “accountability-holding, goal-setting, strategy-developing, resource-identifying” quarterly or monthly conferences with each of your salespeople.
At these tune-up conferences do these things, in this sequence:
Hold them accountable for doing what they said they were going to do. Simply ask, “Did you do what you said you were going to do?” “Why or Why not?” “What did you learn?” “What are you going to do differently next time?”
Help them set goals. Ask, “In light of the compensation plan, the company’s expectations, and your situation, what will you be trying to accomplish in the next quarter (month)?”
Help them create a strategy. Ask, “How are you going to do that?” Make them answer in detail and have them commit that answer to writing.
Finally, ask “How can I help?” and “What do you need to help you do it?
Article by Dave Kahle at http://www.davekahle.com. Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries.
Whether you’re a seasoned manager or just starting your career in management, one thing is for certain. When it comes to coaching, and more specifically, guiding a conversation with the artful and strategic use of well-crafted questions, managers, regardless of age, location or experience, struggle with the right questions to ask when coaching.
After coaching thousands of managers and thousands of salespeople across the globe, I’m overly sensitive to the fact that great coaches coach from their heart, not from their head. However, just like learning anything new, such as how to swing a golf club, you’re initially focused on the mechanics of your swing, each movement, step by step. It is only after consistent repetition of the same movement, does it become your own. You stop thinking about the mechanics, and habitually just do it.
This also holds true when it comes to the questions managers ask when coaching. I certainly know there’s a multitude of different questions you can use in any coaching conversation. However, when the best ones are used and used consistently, the conversation becomes magical and both the coach and coachee walk away from that experience feeling great.
That’s when this shift happens; the coach starts recognizing positive results from coaching and as such, begins to trust their intuition, their gut, their coaching abilities and their instincts more and more. The byproduct? The right questions just show up naturally and organically within the conversation. But you still need to start with a baseline of best practices as a solid foundation to build from before you can make it your own and leverage your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.
That’s why I’ve listed ten coaching questions here which I’ve used over the years that I have found can work in practically every conversation you have. These questions will guide the person to greater accountability and ownership of the problem so that they can in turn, develop their own solution or create a new possibility.
Of course, depending upon the conversation, you may not need to leverage every single question. However, as you use them throughout your coaching efforts, you’ll start recognizing how many of these questions you need and which ones are the most appropriate. Keep in mind, if you don’t have a great manager or a coach in your corner, you can also leverage some of these questions for self-coaching! (Just don’t argue with yourself over the responses you hear! ;- )
- Can you share the specifics of what’s going on?
- What is the outcome you’re looking to achieve here?
- What have you tried so far?
- How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?) Why do you feel this is happening?
- What’s another way to look at this/respond? What else can also be possible/true? (And……?)
- What’s another solution/approach that may work (which you haven’t tried yet)?
- What’s the first thing you need to do to (resolve/achieve this)?
- What resources do you need? (Who else do you think needs to be involved in this? How else can I support you?)
- What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (by when)?
- When should we reconnect on this to ensure you achieved the result you want?
BONUS QUESTIONS: If you sense any resistance to change or a lack of ownership around the issue, goal or problem, you can weave in one of these questions here:
- What would it mean to you if you could (achieve this, resolve this, etc….)? (This question helps the person visualize what’s in it for them – and it’s the thing that they want rather than the manager trying to tell or ‘sell’ them on what the benefit is.)
- How would this impact/affect you (your team, career, etc.) if this (continues, doesn’t change, doesn’t get resolved)? (This second question enables the person to see/articulate the measurable cost of not changing vs. being told the negative consequence. Remember, if they say it, then they own it.)
Article by Keith Rosen – Executive Sales Coach, Author and Global Authority on Sales and Leadership. Keith is the CEO of Profit Builders, named the Best Sales Training and Coaching Company Worldwide. Keith has written several best sellers on time management, selling, prospecting and leadership coaching, including the widely acclaimed Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, winner of Five International Best Book Awards. Often featured in the media, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most influential executive coaches.Visit: www.profitbuilders.com
One way to make your job in leadership infinitely more difficult while ensuring you fail to develop your people is to turn them into dependents. There are two things that leaders do that kill initiative and resourcefulness and turn employees into dependents.
Doing Their Work
The presentation or report the client needs is important. It must be done right, and it needs to be your company’s best work. One of your employees explains to you what your client needs and, heroically, you spring into action. You can do a better job than the employee who just received the request. And you want to personally make sure it’s done right.
You may be capable of doing a better job on some tasks than the person you believe you are helping, but by doing the work for them you deprive them of the experience of doing the work themselves. You have eliminated their opportunity to learn how to do whatever it is that you have decided to do for them.
You’ve also demonstrated that you aren’t confident that they can do the work. Without saying a word, you have shown your employee that you don’t believe they are capable.
By doing the work yourself, you may produce a better result, but you haven’t given the person whose work you are doing the learning experience or your confidence in their abilities. In the future, you can count on that person (or persons) coming back to you again and again to do the most important work.
By doing the work, you’ve created a dependent.
Answering Their Questions
Your salesperson is stuck. They have a challenging opportunity, and their dream client is stretching them to the very end of their ability. They rush into your office with questions and, being the wise old sage that you are, you start doling out the answers.
Sometimes you may need to provide your employees with the answer to challenging problems. But doing so as a standard operating procedure creates dependents. You are doing their thinking for them instead of teaching them how to think. Instead of notching them up, you are limiting their growth. Worse still, your taking their pinkish-gray matter out of their work.
Non-directive coaching is a much more powerful choice for engaging with members of your team around challenges. By making your employees answer the questions for themselves, with your help and guidance, you are teaching them to think. You’re notching them up instead of creating dependents.
Slow is Fast, Fast is Slow
It’s faster to do the work yourself or to provide someone with what you believe is the right answer. Way faster. But way faster equals way slower. It slows down the personal and professional growth of the person you are helping. And it slows down your ability to really help, continually burdening you with more and more work from the dependents you’ve created. That’s why fast is really slow.
Slow is fast. The more time you take to coach, train, teach, and develop, the faster your employee’s grow personally and professionally. By taking time now, you eliminate the need to take the time to do the work and provide the answers in the future. This increases the speed of your team, and it provides you with the time you really need to lead.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
“HE WHO KNOWS others is learned. He who knows himself is wise”. A phrase from Lao Tse, the sixth-century Chinese philosopher.
Successful sales leaders through the ages have professed that identifying and understanding one’s own personal strengths and weaknesses is the first step on the path toward personal and professional performance.
Contemporary UCLA research indicates that 93 percent of success comes from trust, integrity, authenticity, honesty, creativity, presence and resilience. These are the non-intellectual attributes that are key to an effective emotional intelligence (EI) — the ability to relate to, communicate with, and motivate others. Conversely, low EI and its associated weaknesses sabotage leadership efforts.
Sales leaders with high EI create an emotional climate that fosters creative innovations, all-out performance and loyal employees. They reduce frustration and better achieve desired results by understanding not only their unique motivators, but also their employees’ motivators.
EI is an important component of the assessment process used in understanding yourself and leveraging your leadership assets.
Inspire to retain
One of the biggest challenges that sales leaders have in light of the shrinking workforce is retaining top performers. The ability to inspire others — especially Gen X and Yers — to do their best work and to stay loyal when other jobs beckon requires exceptional EI. In fact, in this bleak hiring environment, leaders can’t afford to be less than excellent. And according to Daniel Goleman in “Primal Intelligence: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence,” 85 percent to 95 percent of the difference between a good and excellent leader is due to emotional intelligence.
Leadership is challenging regardless of the industry or profession. Harris Interactive recent poll of 23,000 employees found:
- Only 20 percent were enthusiastic about their team and company’s goals.
- Only 50 percent were satisfied with the work they accomplished during the week.
- Only 15 percent said they worked in a high-trust environment.
- Only 17 percent felt their organizations foster open communication that respects differing opinions and results in new and better ideas.
Sales leaders who blame their lack of success on the people they manage do not accept responsibility for effective management. For instance, a sales manager with a strong engineering background was charged with leading the growth initiative for an engineering firm. He specifically stated that leadership and management topics were off-limits for discussion. He negated the value of his EI. It’s not surprising that new-business development efforts languished, and three months later he was fired.
Think of a leader you know who inspires performance and loyalty in his or her employees. What’s their secret? Why do employees stay with the company despite offers of more money by other companies? Why do they go the extra mile to improve their skills and performance?
Although business acumen and technical competency create the framework for successful sales leadership, the authors of “Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence,” offer this explanation:
- When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision or powerful ideas. But, the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through emotions.
- Objectives, strategies, and tactics can be brilliant. However, if a leader doesn’t engage the appropriate emotional intelligence, the initiative is more likely to fail. If leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should?
Getting accurate data
While some people are born with high EI, others have to work to attain it. They need to look deep within themselves to learn how to inspire, motivate and retain their employees. I’ve worked with sales leaders who expand their leadership influence as they enhance their personal capacity.
Objective assessments provide accurate data for helping sales leaders learn how to leverage their strengths and make decisions about how to ensure their weaknesses don’t negatively impact them and their performance. They measure the various dimensions of EI and create clarity for both personal and professional growth.
Sales Assessment Tools
- Leadership and competencies: This type of assessment evaluates and quantifies three dimensions of thought about a person’s ability to do things related to people, tasks and systems. The resulting picture depicts leadership capacities, such as accountability for others, ability to develop others, emotional control, and other issues related to emotional intelligence that are imperative to effective leadership and driving results. An individual’s talents and personal skills are a fundamental part of who they are.
- Leadership and behavioral style: How you communicate with your employees. The DISC — Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Steadiness (S) and Compliance (C) — helps analyze how we act, without gauging intelligence, personality, values, beliefs, skills, knowledge or education. It focuses on how different individuals, including business leaders, approach and tackle problems, people and the pace of business.
Susan was a “High D” sales leader — focused, direct, aggressive and oriented to the bottom line. Her employee, Ron, embraced Steadiness as a way to get to know clients and connect on an emotional level before discussing uncomfortable financial issues. Tired of Susan’s business-only, bottom-line orientation, Ron submitted his resignation. Of course, a resignation from the largest revenue producer was Susan’s wake-up call. She realized that in order to retain Ron, she’d have to alter her communication style and build a better relationship with Ron.
3. Leadership and workplace motivators: Why you do what you do. A person’s motivation is based on internal, often unconscious, values. This is one of the reasons why we are surprised by someone’s behavior. Edward Spranger, a noted philosopher and psychologist, conducted one of the earliest modern studies on values and identified six specific attitudes prevailing across the world: Theoretical, Utilitarian, Aesthetic, Social, Leadership and Traditional. These values are the basis for a whole range of assessment tools used in multiple industries and across numerous job functions.
By understanding our motivators and the motivators of each team member, we create alignment and clearer communication for reaching goals faster.
Sales leaders who invest the time and energy to work through this process will create stronger companies. They leverage their leadership talents, skills, behaviors and motivators to create an emotional climate that fosters creative problem-solving and quantum-leap performance.
Article by Dan Perry at http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com
Sales Management Turnover in 2011 will exceed 28% across all sales organizations. 52% of VP of Sales are dissatisfied with their current Sales Management team responding that most are ‘B’ or ‘C’ players. Over 63% of Sales Managers are dissatisfied with their current jobs and are looking for new ones.
‘Houston, we have a problem’
If you want to be one of the sales managers that get fired next year, there are 3 sure ways to accomplish that task. This list does not include missing your quota. That is a non-negotiable of your job. Why should a company even have a sales manager if you can’t hit the number?
The list is a combination of actions you wouldn’t do that will help make the quota. They are all centered on how you are spending your time. Accomplishing these three things will have you updating your resume next Holiday season:
- Inaccurate Forecasting. You consistently miss your forecast with only 75% accuracy. Your sales reps don’t use the company sales process because you don’t reinforce it on every deal. The sales reps don’t place their opportunities in stages. They consistently provide you “a gut feel” about their monthly number. And you don’t help strategize with them, instead yelling something like “just go out and make it rain” or “don’t tell me how rough the water is, just bring the ship in.”
- Desk Jockey. You show up in the office (or your home office) every day “riding the pines”. You haven’t seen a customer for a month and focus your time and attention on pricing deals for your reps. You consistently are reading sales force effectiveness books because you don’t really know what is happening with your customers. You use your expense account as a form of income because you aren’t earning any bonus due to your poor team’s performance. And you are always interviewing sales people with industry experience looking for the quick fix.
- No new capability acquisition. (aka: playing it safe) Why rock the boat with a new idea? Why learn about the new way to cold call? Why try different ways to solve a customer’s problem? You got the Sales Manager job because you were the best sales rep on the team. Building relationships is the best way to keep the business. So don’t challenge the customer or jeopardize the account with some crazy idea that would solve the customer’s problems. As long as your customer retention number is in the high 80% range, you can ‘survive’ until this poor economy turns around and you will be back on easy street.
Unfortunately, we see Sales Managers every day really ‘nail’ these three actions. We see them trying to do the least possible actions thinking the ‘good’ times will be back. Sales Management needs to improve. And they need to improve quickly.
I had a sales manager who displayed these three actions every week. When I interacted with her or her sales reps (more than 3 reps who distribute these actions on a team make a trend), I always caught her in the office. She consistently missed her forecast blaming her reps and she was late and left early when we rolled out a new training process. She was lousy at spending her time wisely.
She was fired. I fired her. And my sales from that team improved over 35% in 3 weeks.
Are you afraid of making a mistake? Are you frightened of changing your daily actions in fear of losing a rep or missing some short term revenue? Are you trying to hold on thinking the old ways of the past will keep you in the job?
If you are, update your resume. You are about to get fired.
Do you want some help? Start with the chart below. Do more of the things on the left side and reduce the actions on the right:
Article by Dan Perry at http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com