Sales and Sales Management Blog

April 30, 2008

Yes, You Can Make Linkedin Work for You

Do you have your profile on Linkedin? If so, have you been actively using it to help you grow your business? Have you figured out HOW to use it? Is it even worth the time and effort?

Although it is the granddaddy of business social networks, a great many who have posted their profiles haven’t used it to its fullest potential; certainly, I’m one. Spending time on the site trying to discover its potential hasn’t been a priority for me as it hasn’t for many others.

Like most, I’ve posted a bland profile, get an occasional request to connect, and visit it once in a blue moon. I, like most, invest little or no time and then wonder why it doesn’t help my business.

If you’re like me—and chances are you are, then I recommend you read a new free ebook, Can Linkedin Increase Your Sales?, written by my friend Jill Konrath. Jill has just released the ebook and—shock of shocks—is giving it away free and you don’t have to sign up for anything—just download it.

That in itself is unheard of.

But the best part is the book is good—unlike so many free ebooks that are all hype and designed to do nothing but sell another product or service, this ebook gives real advice and real strategies to help you generate business on Linkedin.

Don’t belong to Linkedin but belong to another business social network? Get the book. Many of the strategies can be transferred to any social networking site.

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April 29, 2008

Guest Article: “The Power of a Sales Slump,” by Frank Rumbauskas

Filed under: cold calling,prospecting,sales,selling,success — Paul McCord @ 5:42 am
Tags: , , ,

The Power of a Sales Slump
By Frank Rumbauskas

We all know how powerful a sales slump can be, and how it can have such an iron grip on your performance once it starts.

For a long time I’ve been trying to understand exactly WHY this is so, and even though I’ve come to a basic understanding of why slumps are so powerful, I recently came upon the right words to explain it, and in doing so, I gained a lot of insight into how to prevent them from happening in the first place and, at the same time, how to increase your overall sales success.

I was at a four-day seminar featuring a wide variety of guest speakers in various areas of self-improvement and how to really achieve excellence in everything that you do.  One of the speakers in particular was a practicing hypnotist who works with people specifically to remove limiting beliefs from their minds. Regardless of whether or not you believe hypnosis works as a self-improvement technique, he spent quite a bit of time discussing the ins and outs of the subconscious mind, and it was during this part of his talk that the light bulb went on in my head and I not only figured out the cause of slumps once and for all, but also realized what it is that keeps many salespeople down and exactly why my own personal success in selling increased exponentially as soon as I eliminated cold calling from my routine.

The speaker was talking about the effects of rejection on the subconscious mind, and about how the belief that anything is a “numbers game” actually perpetuates failure because of the destructive effects it has on your own mind. In some ways, the belief that “it’s a numbers game” works as a limiting belief against you.

This hypnotist explained that the subconscious will give you whatever it THINKS you’re trying to feed it.  If you’ve read Cold Calling Is A Waste Of Time, think back to the part where I explain that the subconscious mind works with whatever material it receives, positive or negative.  If you’re inadvertently feeding negative material to your subconscious mind, it will respond by transforming those negative thoughts into outward physical action on your part that will generate only negative results.

Moving on, he got to his point.  The subconscious mind learns through REPETITION.  If something is happening over and over, on a regular basis, the subconscious receives it, recognizes it, and acts upon it solely as a result of constant repetition.

Deliberately doing anything that results in repetitive rejection causes the subconscious mind to actually EXPECT rejection, and causes you to unconsciously do things through your body language, voice tone, and other means to CAUSE rejection to take place!

When you force yourself to experience rejection on a regular and consistent basis, your subconscious mind mistakenly believes that you’re trying to program it to WANT rejection, and it responds by actually making it happen more often!

This key component in the workings of the human mind says more about why you should avoid cold calling at all cost than anything else I’ve ever learned.

Let’s look at it from a real-world point of view. We can all agree that, on average, about 1 in 50 cold calls will result in a lead – a real, qualified lead that is, not just someone who will agree to an appointment with you.  An appointment is not a qualified lead.

Let’s say someone is a really great cold caller, or happens to have a great territory or is just plain lucky and this person is getting 1 in 20.

This means that for every 20 cold calls, this person’s subconscious mind is receiving “rejection programming” 95% of the time.  It will eventually accept this “rejection programming” and short circuit the person’s success.

I think this function of the mind also serves to explain the reality of “sales burnout.”  I know so many salespeople who were always  successful and top performers, until one day they reached burnout and had to get out.  Even though things were going well, something snapped inside them and they immediately got out of selling for good.

I now believe that the endless years of “rejection programming” are to blame for sales burnout.  After thousands upon thousands of rejections have been burned into one’s mind, the subconscious simply shuts that section of the mind down and the person can no longer go on selling.

The crazy part about all this is that if salespeople spent their careers utilizing some simple lead- generation systems and methods, they’d never have to cold call, never have to deal with thousands of cold call rejections, and would have much more profitable sales careers as well as healthier self-esteem and would generally be happier people.

The scariest part of this speaker’s presentation was when he explained that people who have inadvertently programmed themselves for rejection have difficulty not only in business, but in all areas of life, particularly in relationships.

If you’re still cold calling, you’re subjecting yourself to this rejection programming on a daily basis and the effects are cumulative over time.

Frank J. Rumbauskas Jr., the New York Times best-selling author who redefined selling and who continues to teach salespeople how to generate endless leads without cold calling, chasing, or begging, now uses the science of social dynamics to unleash unstoppable people and organizations.  His website is http://www.nevercoldcall.com.

April 28, 2008

Pass Your Knowledge and Experience Along: Get Interviewed About Your Experience with CRM, SPM or SFA Sales Technology

I’m looking for a few salespeople, sales managers and corporate executives to interview to be featured on The Management Curve blog.  The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to examining and discussing how the new sales technologies of Client Relationship Management (CRM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), and Sales Force Automation (SFA) is changing and will continue to change how the sales function is managed the impact the technology has on salespeople, managers, executives, and the company.

Does your company use a CRM, SPM, or SFA system?
•    If so, what has been your personal experience with the technology?
•    Has it delivered the promised benefits for the company?
•    Has it delivered tangible benefits to you personally?
•    What do you hope to gain from the system?
•    If you’re a sales manager or executive, how has the technology impacted your job, your management style or the role you play—or, on the other hand, why hasn’t it had an impact?
•    How much and what type of training have you received on the system?
•    Other than which buttons to click and what data to enter, has the training focused on the practical benefits you should gain from the system?  If so, how?  Was it adequate?
•    Overall, how would rate the system you’re using?
•    If you were with the company when the system was originally introduced, how did the company introduce the system to the sales force?  Did you view the introduction and the system as a positive or a negative?  Has it lived up to the company’s expectations?

Is your company in the process of installing or contemplating purchasing a system?
•    If so, what are your expectations, hopes, and/or fears?
•    How do you envision using the system?
•    Do you anticipate the system to be a positive or a negative for you?
•    How is the company introducing the system?
•    What does the company expect the system to do for it?

If you are an executive who was one of the men or women responsible for the purchase of the system or contemplating the purchase:
•    What are your hopes and expectations from the system?
•    Why did you select the particular you system you decided upon?
•    If you haven’t made a final decision, what are you basing your decision upon?
•    If your system has been in place for a while, has it performed as promised?
•    If you could go back prior to purchasing the system, knowing what you know now, would you purchase it?
•    How did the company introduce the system to the sales team?  What, if anything, should have been done differently?

Although the blog features articles, discussion and commentary from sales management, consulting and product development experts focusing on the very practical implications and changes sales technology is producing in the sales department and the company, we are also very interested in the real-world experiences of users of the technology.  That’s where I’m hoping you come in.

Whether your experiences have been positive or negative, we would like to speak with you for a possible podcast interview for the blog.  Your experience is important to other salespeople, managers and executives.  What you’ve learned can help your peers, companies contemplating a purchase, and the product developers themselves.

If you are involved or about to be involved with any of these technologies, please contact me directly at pmccord@mccordandassociates.  Give me a brief overview of your personal experience and a way to contact you and I’ll be in touch.  Help your colleagues by passing along what you’ve learned.

April 27, 2008

Guest Article: “The Number One Cause of Management Failure,” by Dave Anderson

The Number One Cause of Management Failure
by Dave Anderson

There are many reasons managers fail. For some, the organization outgrows them. Others don’t change with the times. Others still spread themselves too thin and work long and hard but not smart. Many abandon the priorities and disciplines that once made them great and never get back to them. A few make poor character choices. They look good for a while but eventually discover they can’t get out of their own way. Increasingly more keep the wrong people too long because they don’t want to admit they made a mistake or have high turnover become a negative reflection on them. Some failures had brilliant past track records but started using their success as a license to build a fence around what they had rather than continue to risk and stretch to build it to even higher levels. But all these causes for management failure have their root in one common cause: pride. In simplest terms, pride is devastating. Having pride in what you do is not the type of pride I’m referring to in this article. I’m indicting the pride that inflates your sense of self-worth and distorts your perspective of reality.

1. Pride will stop you from building a team. Because you depend too much on yourself you won’t trust, delegate to or give additional opportunities to others. Quite frankly, because of your inflated sense of self-worth you won’t really see the need for others. Thus, you’ll become the one-man show, micromanaging and limiting others in your charge.
2. Pride renders you un-teachable. Your pride tells you that you know it all and thus you don’t commit to personal growth. There’s always something better to do with your time and money and since your ego convinces you that you’ve arrived and have all the answers, who needs business books or seminars?
3. Pride closes your mind to feedback. When others offer you advice or direction you let it go in one ear and out the other and do things your way. Because of your bloated ego you never seek out feedback that would help you grow as it could be seen as a sign of weakness.
4. Pride causes you to keep the wrong people too long. Many managers keep obvious misfits on their payrolls because to fire them would be a tacit admission they made a mistake in the first place or were unable to develop the person to a higher level. Their pride convinces them if they keep working with the miserable that one day they can elevate them up to mediocre.
5. Pride will prevent you from admitting mistakes on one hand while it encourages you to take all the credit on the other. Thus, you will teach others to cover their own behinds by virtue of your own corrupt example and never build an open, trusting environment.
6. Pride will cause you to pledge allegiance to the status quo rather than be open to change; especially if the change alters something you put into place. Since you have more emotional equity in the way things are, you’ll justify living with them rather than changing them.
7. Pride encourages poor character choices. Because of arrogance, ignorance or a little of both, leaders start taking shortcuts that compromise their values. In their conceit they think they’re above the rules or are too smart to get caught.

In his book, Good to Great , Jim Collins’ research showed that the leaders of the great companies maintained a strong personal humility balanced with a ferocious ambition for the organization. This is an optimal recipe for great leaders. It’s fine to be proud of your business, abilities and accomplishments. But when pride causes you to fall into any of these traps it won’t be long until you’re finished as a leader. You don’t have to look far to see how pride has wreaked havoc on leaders from all walks; destroying Enron, imprisoning Jim Bakker, deluding Saddam and tarnishing Iacocca.

Proverbs indicates that pride comes before destruction and lists pride as the first of seven things God hates. I don’t know about you, but that certainly gets my attention. Too many people think that ancient, proven and universal laws somehow don’t apply to them; that they’re different or above what the rest of us must pay attention to. They are dead wrong. We all may fall into prideful traps from time to time. It comes with the territory of being a flawed human being. But failing to recognize the error and change your course is what finishes you as a leader because pride is a character flaw and leaders that last and leave legacies have their character in tact. This prediction of demise is not a guess it’s a guarantee. It’s not a matter of “if” but of “when.” There are no exceptions.

If pride hinders you it’s time to face it and begin to humble yourself before the marketplace does it for you. Humility doesn’t mean you think less of yourself it just means you think of yourself less. If pride is infecting your people don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Care enough to confront them with it. Letting them live in denial is dangerous because they will continue to misdiagnose everything wrong with their business and their life. Until they acknowledge how pride holds them back they will never change it.

Peak performance author, columnist, trainer, speaker and radio show host for sales, management and leadership, Dave Anderson walks the talk as a leader. He has led some of the most successful retail automotive dealership in the country—the most recent dealer group he led had over $300,000,000 in annual sales—and now gives 150 presentations, workshops and speeches annually on sales and leadership development around the globe.  Visit Dave’s website at http://www.learntolead.com

April 26, 2008

Guest Article: “More on the Presidential Sales Campaign,” by Dave Stein

More on the Presidential Sales Campaign
by Dave Stein

I spent some time today on the phone with Grainne Rothery, who writes for the Ireland-based Marketing Age magazine.  I was being interview for an upcoming article on competitive selling.

It didn’t take long before we were discussing the U.S. presidential race.  They are not only very interested in our politics in Ireland, but very well informed.

As each day passes, I continue to find more parallels between the most competitive sales opportunity you can imagine and this presidential race—especially the contest between Clinton and Obama.

Although there are a lot of mistakes, there are some very effective moves being made on both sides.

First, here are just a few of the mistakes:

* Bill Clinton parachuted in, staying off message and antagonizing the “buyers.”  Isn’t this just like when a CEO insists on going on a sales call and delivers his/her standard pitch without any regard for the uniqueness of the prospect or their issues.
* Obama was generally unprepared for what many predicted would happen in the last debate: he would be attacked.  Either you take the high road or you counterattack.  You don’t equivocate.
* Clinton used a new way to count, as she proclaimed that she is winning the race.  “I’m very proud that as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anyone else,” Clinton said Wednesday, one day after her decisive win in Pennsylvania. This could only cause her to lose, rather than gain, favor with the superdelegates to whom she is attempting to sell.  If you’re going to change the groundrules, you need to do it in a much more subtle and effective way.  The press and Obama’s campaign are all over her for this.
* Obama not having made much of an attempt to gain favor with Hillary’s strongest group of supporters: women over the age of 45.  This is reminiscent of many sales campaigns I’ve observed where the rep ignores an entire constituency within the prospect’s company, only to have them exert their influence when a decision was made.

A few smart moves:

* Clinton effectively changing the mindset of voters and the media that the Pennsylvania primary was a new starting point in the race.  It’s like nothing else had happened before.  Smart move.
* Obama focusing on McCain, as though he is the presumptive winner.
* Clinton’s new round of fund raising started just as the polls closed in Pennsylvania.  That gave her the same kind of credibility as a sales rep winning some new accounts and announcing them during a touch sales campaign.
* Obama’s approach that evenly spread announcement by superdelegates over weeks, rather then when they happened.  This is a very discliplined approach to building momentum.

The next two weeks will be interesting.

Dave Stein is CEO and Founder of ES Research Group, Inc., and author of How Winners Sell.  Dave is an internationally recognized thought leader in the area of sales performance, sales effectiveness and especially sales training. He writes the Smart Sales column for Sales and Marketing Management magazine.

April 25, 2008

Stop Prospecting Forever

This is a repost of my article, “Stop Prospecting Forever,” which originally appeared in Advisor Today, the largest circulation financial services magazine in the world and the official publication of the National Association for Insurance and Financial Advisors. I’m reprinting this as I just learned the article has been selected as one of the 10 best articles written in 2007 according to Advisor Today. I hope you enjoy it.

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If you’re still struggling with lead generation and not getting enough qualified prospects, you may want to try “referralspecting.” Instead of depending on cold calls, direct mail or company-provided leads, become an advisor who generates significant numbers of referrals. If you follow these four steps religiously, you can get most of your business—with more and better-qualified prospects—from client referrals within just a few months.

1. Set the expectations from the beginning.
To generate large numbers of referrals, you must establish the expectation of a large number of qualified referrals from the beginning. The traditional referral-gathering formula is: Make the sale, do a good job, ask for referrals. Most advisors seek referrals to new prospects using this typical formula with the “ask” at the end—and see typically poor results. Make it clear from the outset that you work on a referral basis and fully expect the client to have referrals for you at the appropriate time. Start during the initial meeting with the prospect, continue throughout the sales process, and follow up after the sale.

2. Agree on terms.
If you want to be a successful referralspector, you must take the extra time with your client to make sure you are both on the same page. There are three things you need to go over with him:

A: Make sure your client understands what you mean by referral. Sound ridiculous? Everyone has his own idea of what a referral is or isn’t. You cannot expect your customer to fully know what you want from him. Instead, explain in detail what a real referral is; otherwise, you stand an excellent chance of getting the same types of unqualified names and phone numbers you were getting from your lead service.
B. Spell out how many referrals you expect; otherwise, your client may only give you the minimum number of referrals he feels he can legitimately give you. So unless you are happy with one or two referrals, go ahead and give your client a benchmark to reach.
C. You must agree on what you will deliver in exchange for the referral. In other words, you have to earn your clients’ referrals, and they should know that upfront as well. To perform to your clients’ expectations, you have to understand what constitutes a quality job for them. You absolutely must make sure you understand their expectations—and they must understand your capabilities.

3. Over-deliver. OK, it’s an old cliché, but “under-promise and over-deliver” is an absolute in referral selling. Part of your relationship agreement with clients is that if you perform to their satisfaction, you will get referrals. You earn the referrals—they are part of your compensation. If you exceed their expectations, they’re more likely to give more referrals. So make “going one better” a top priority.

4. Get the referrals. Now that you’ve done a fantastic job, you want your payment. Since you’ve done steps 1 through 3 correctly, your client is probably ready to give you several names and phone numbers. Don’t accept them without asking lots of questions, such as what your client liked about your service, products, delivery and communication during the sale and other pertinent items. Take notes. Then ask about each of the individuals and companies on your customer’s referral list. Get as much information as you can about each.

After you have gathered this information, ask if your client would write a personal referral letter to each person or, better yet, if he would prefer you write the letters and submit them for his signature. Since you have notes about their experience with you, and you have detailed information about the referred person, you might be in a position to write a better letter than your client is. Or, even better, ask your client to call the person and introduce you—or arrange a lunch for the three of you. Regardless of whether it’s a call, letter or lunch, you are virtually guaranteed a meeting on terms that are favorable to you.

So, is it that simple? Yes and no. The above steps outline the process for generating large numbers of referrals. The act of putting them into practice and making them work does take thought, practice and time. Like everything else in sales, the devil is in the details. If you’re having trouble doing it by trial and error, you may want to consider hiring a sales coach to help you. But either way, you need to convert your sales business from a hit-and-miss prospecting system to one that is proven to generate results and increase your income even as you de-emphasize the “sell.”

For a fuller discussion of the process that will generate a large volume of high quality referrals from each of your customers and clients, see my best-selling book on referral generation, Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals which is recognized by many as the authoritative work on referral selling. It is, of course, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and all fine bookstores.

April 24, 2008

Guest Article: “Recession Proof Your Sales Organization,” by Thomas A Freese

Recession Proof Your Sales Organization
By Thomas A Freese

What happened to the glory days of selling, where new prospect opportunities were abundant, dot-com companies were spending money in all directions, and sales organizations exceeded their revenue targets by two, and sometimes, three-fold?

Well, guess what? Economic conditions have changed. With the threat of recession looming on the horizon, new prospects have all but disappeared, existing customers have tightened their budgets, and most of the “low hanging fruit” has already been picked.

Where does that leave sales organizations?

The natural tendency is to panic. With the bottom line in jeopardy, many companies are now scrambling to reduce headcount and cut back on expenses. As a result, edicts have gone out stating that there will be no more off-site meetings, salespeople can only travel when absolutely necessary, and some companies have even put a moratorium on logo golf shirts.

Of course, corporate executives are also looking for ways to boost revenue. That usually means turning up the heat on the field sales organization to produce better numbers…or else! But increasing the pressure on the sales organization doesn’t usually increase revenue. A full-court press might bring in a few short-term sales, but at the end of the day, customers don’t respond well when they feel pressured into buying.

Once the initial panic subsides, and short-term corrective measures have run their course, companies need to step back and evaluate their sales readiness.

Over the last ten years, selling goods and services for the most part has been relatively easy. I liken it to investing in the stock market during the same period. With the exception of a few downward blips, investors could have made their stock picks by throwing darts at the newspaper and still brought home record returns. As the old adage says, “When the tide comes in, all the boats go up.”

Well, the tide certainly came in for salespeople during the 1990’s. Along with the evolution of the Internet, the world’s economy experienced an economic boom that was unprecedented in modern history. As a result, thousands of new companies sprang up, backed by tons of venture capital, offering huge stock options and significant incentives to salespeople who were willing to jump ship and take a chance on hitting a home run.

Those salespeople who were smart enough (or lucky enough) to get in and out at the right time are probably relaxing on a private island somewhere, sipping pina coladas and wondering what the working class is doing today. For the rest of us, the glory days of selling are long gone.

As the dust settles, sales managers should take a few moments and review what is to be learned from this upheaval. The most glaring lesson is the realization that during the best of times, sales organizations tend to get complacent when it comes to sales skills. Think about it. In the 1970’s and early 80’s, Fortune 100 giants like IBM, Xerox, and Merrill Lynch set the standard when it came to establishing training programs to develop the professional selling skills of their respective sales organizations.

Over the last ten years, however, enhancing the professional skills of the field sales force has been a corporate nice-to-have. And why? Let’s be honest. When salespeople are achieving their sales goals, why should anyone worry about selling skills? Similarly, when a salesperson’s resume shows they have a track record for hitting their numbers, it is assumed that they have sound professional selling skills.

But do they? It’s easy to fill up the sales forecast and close business when the economy is booming. But what about when times get lean? What are your salespeople doing now to engage new prospects to increase their sense of urgency? What are they doing to establish credibility with cautious prospects and fend off competitors who have become even more desperate? What are they doing to minimize objections and move sales process forward toward closure? What are they doing to leverage their strategic partners to increase both mindshare and marketshare?

Most of the sales training dollars invested over the past decade were spent on rolling out sales automation programs—to improve forecast accuracy and improve the efficiency of the sales organization. But what about making the individual salesperson more effective? Oops! Seems we forgot about that. Just look around your organization. Even if you have good people, chances are good they are each attacking the sales process differently—oftentimes, based on their experience from the past ten years. Oops again! Remember, the economy has changed and we are no longer selling into a market environment where there are easy pickings.

There’s no need to assign blame. There is, however, an opportunity to recognize that the best way out of an economic recession is to increase the effectiveness of your salespeople, so they can sell their way out. For many companies, this means going back to basics and improving the professional selling skills of their sales organizations.

When my first book, Secrets of Question Based Selling, came out, some people thought, “Who needs sales skills when business is booming?” Now that the pendulum has swung the other way, corporate managers are suddenly wondering, “Who needs sales automation tools and complex spreadsheets when the forecast is empty?”

Thomas A. Freese, president of QBS Research, Inc., is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on strategic sales methods and buyer motivation.  His website is http://www.qbsresearch.com

April 23, 2008

Technology and Change: How Technology is Changing How Sales is Managed

There is a new debate just beginning to bubble to the surface and it promises to be lively and the views divergent.  Forty years ago computer technology sent a man to the moon.  Thirty years ago computer technology began taking over the running of autos, trucks, trains and the rest of our transportation system.  Twenty years ago computer technology began to change forever how small businesses are run.  Ten years ago computer technology began to change how we shop, find information, and even communicate with one another.

Now, finally, computer technology is just beginning to tackle the greatest mystery of all—what do salespeople and sales managers really do with their time?  How do they really find new prospects?  Who are those prospects?  What do they sell them?  How long is the sales cycle really?  These and dozens of other questions are in the process of slowly being answered.

The technology that is delving into these questions is in its infancy.  Client Relationship Management (CRM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), and Sales Force Automation (SFA) programs are inching their way into every company—even the smallest.  How and why companies use these programs are myriad—and to some extent unknown—not just to the developers of the programs but also to the companies themselves.

Today, there are dozens of programs on the market with many more in development.  Some gather minimal information, others are designed to gather great chunks.  Some focus on compensation management, some on defining the profile of customers, others on defining sales team profiles, and others focus their attention on the performance and activities of individual salespeople.  Some, such as CRM are stand-alone programs while others such as SPM and SFA are typically integrated into CRM programs.

In other words, the sales metrics industry is still searching for its place, its function in the marketplace.

However, the result is going to be a shockwave through companies and in particular the sales department.  For the first time companies will have far more real data on their sales and prospecting efforts than ever.  And the volume, width and depth of that information will continue to grow.

No one knows exactly how these programs will change the way the sales function will be managed.  However, there are a great number of questions that must be addressed—and they must be addressed now as companies, salespeople, and managers struggle to adapt to and work with this technology:
•  What do companies really want the technology to do?
•  What, in the end, can the technology really do well?
•  How do companies integrate the systems into their sales teams and get the support of salespeople and managers?
•  What will managers really do with the information?
•  How will the information be used to change how companies and salespeople sell?
•  Will the information be used for coaching and training their salespeople—or as a club to threaten and cajole?
•  What will this information mean for marketing, production, advertising and the other departments?
•  More fundamentally, which programs work and which don’t?
•  Which programs are salesperson friendly and which aren’t?
•  Which programs gather truly useful information and which don’t?
•  What do real live salespeople, managers and executives think of the programs they are using or contemplating?

The list could go on and on.

The debate about technology and how it will be used and integrated, how it will change the sales function and the people within sales departments, and how it will change companies themselves should be of importance to all of us.  This technology is going to affect every one of us—salesperson, manager, executive, shareholder, trainer, consultant, developer alike.

Yet, the discussion and debate has barely begun.

A new blog, The Management Curve, has just been launched to discuss and debate this very issue.  The blog will tackle the questions above—and much more.

Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog will bring in other trainers, consultants, developers, managers, executives, and salespeople to discuss and debate the impact this technology will have.  The focus of the blog is narrow—how metrics gathering technology will change the way the sales function is managed and ultimately how that will change the way salespeople sell and how that will change the company itself.

I encourage you to visit The Management Curve, add it to your RSS feed reader, add it to your blogroll, save it to your favorites file, visit it often.  Over the next few weeks you’ll find more and more guests coming on and offering their opinions, insights, and positions.  It isn’t a homogenous group—there will be many perspectives and many opinions.  No matter your position on the subject, it is one that is going to have a tremendous impact on you in a very real and personal way.

April 22, 2008

Selling Is a Business–Run It Like a Business

We salespeople have a way of convincing ourselves that we spend more time and energy doing the things we don’t enjoy than we really do.  We fret about low sales and wonder how we could spend so much time prospecting and marketing with so little return.  We become discouraged because we aren’t closing sales and wonder why our closing ratio has dropped so dramatically.  We blast our market with direct mail and can’t figure out why the response on the mailing is so much lower than in the past.

Some of us really do spend a great deal of time prospecting and marketing and a significant drop in production is, of course, a danger sign.  Likewise, some do see precipitous drops in their closing ratio or response to their direct mail pieces.  These also are danger signs.

However, for most of us, our feeling that we’re investing a ton of time and energy in prospecting and marketing, that our close ratio was much higher in the past, or the response rate to our pervious mailings was much higher, is just that—a feeling.  Most of us have no real idea of how much time we really spend prospecting, what our close ratio really is, or what the response rate to our direct mail really has been.  Most of us, in fact, have no grasp on any of the major details of our sales business.

We operate on gut feeling, not on facts.  We ‘feel’ we’re doing more than we really are because we’re always busy doing something.  The problem is we attribute being busy with being productive.  The two are not the same.

Operating your sales business is no different than operating any other type of business.  You have to base your decisions and actions on the reality of your situation, not on vague feelings or a guess.

As a salesperson, you own and operate your own business—even if you’re considered an employee by the company you are currently selling for.  Your employer is you—you just happen to have only one client, which is the company whose products and services you are currently selling.  Although you own and operate your sales business, you’ve contracted with a single client to sell their products and services, and they pay you as they pay any other vendor—they cut you a check for the services your company has rendered them.  The only difference between you and their other vendors is they do your payroll accounting for you.

Just as any other business owner, you must know what is really going on within your business.  Business owners operate their business from a set of documents that tell them exactly what is going on with their business.  You must do the same.

The typical business owner’s first document is their daily receipts.  This informs them on a daily basis what their sales were, that is what they sold and how much money came in to the company.  Although useful, their daily reports don’t give them enough information to make real decisions about their business.  Of course, they have other documents that are equally narrow—account registers, bank statements, and the like.  The information in these documents is too narrow, too limited in scope to be useful for making long-term decisions.  In order to know what changes or additions they must make or to detect potential dangers or new opportunities, they need information that shows trends, that show the business over a much longer period.

Business owners have those documents.  Their Profit and Loss Statement informs them on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis of the details of their business–where money comes from, where it goes, how much is left over when all the bills are paid.

They also have a Balance Sheet.  The Balance Sheet shows the big picture of the business—what the company owns and how much money it has after every debt is subtracted.  It’s the big picture revealing the big bottom-line.

The Profit and Loss Statement and the Balance Sheet combined are the historical documents of the company.  And they are far more than just historical documents.  They show the business owner trends—good and bad—in their business.  They reveal real or potential problems and real or potential new opportunities.  They are the facts that tell a business owner where his or her time, money, and energy has been spent—and where they should be spending more of their time, money, and energy.  They are the facts that tell the business owner what they’ve done wrong that must be fixed and what’s working that they should be doing more of.

As the owner of a sales business, you must have your own set of historical documents that give you the real facts about your business.  You can no more run your business effectively without real knowledge about your business than can any other business owner.  The old adage that knowledge is power is just as true for your sales business as it is for any other entity.  The more you know about what is really happening in your business, the more successful you can become.

Just as other businesses, your sales business has several documents also.  Your pipeline line and commission reports are akin to the daily reports other business owners receive.  The information is useful, but too narrow to really show what’s happening in your business.  You need information that consolidates your activities and results over a longer period of time.

Unfortunately, salespeople don’t have a codified set of documents for their business such as a Profit and Loss Statement or a Balance Sheet.  You have to create your own historical document.—your sales and marketing history document.

Your sales and marketing history document should contain every scrap of information you can feed it.  And like a Profit and Loss Statement or a Balance Sheet, it needs hard facts, not guesses or wishful thinking.  It needs to consolidate every marketing and sales activity you engage in.  It should be able to tell you how many people you called, how and where you found those prospects, how many bought, what they bought, and even why they bought.  Your document needs to go beyond numbers because not only is it a document about numbers, it is a document about who, what, when, where and why.

A properly researched and constructed sales and marketing history can tell in detail where you spent your time and what the results of that effort were; who you sold to, how you found them, and why they bought; what you did well and need to do more of and what you did that didn’t work and that you need to change.  A proper sales and marketing history will reveal problems and often tell you exactly how to correct those problems—and what you did that by doing more will increase your sales.  It will reveal new opportunities and warn of potential problems before they become real problems.

As a business owner, you must take responsibility and act like a business owner.  You must take the steps that any reasonable business owner would take to discover how they can improve their business and you can’t do that without knowing exactly what is happening in your business.

You can manage your sales business the way most salespeople do—by chance and accident, by ‘feeling’.  Or, you can manage your business as a business.  Over 40% of the men and women who enter sales fail and are out of sales within 24 months.  Another 45% never earn above an average or just slightly above average income for their industry.  Most of the failure and the mediocre performance come not from a lack of effort but from a lack of productive effort.  If you don’t really know what’s going on in your business, how can you know what effort is productive and what isn’t?

April 21, 2008

Cutting Edge Business Training at a Cutting Edge Site

Today my friend Lee Salz of Sales Dodo fame launches a new business site designed to help salespeople, managers, business owners, professionals, and other business people increase their efficiency and effectiveness.  Business Expert Webinars offers business only related webinars that cover the spectrum of business topics.

Lee has gathered together an incredible group of over 120 hand selected top experts and gurus from around the world to offer the best webinar training courses you can get are extremely reasonable cost.  These one-hour courses are not the typical “come on” to sell books, DVD’s, CD’s, or anything else.  These are strictly hard-core training courses taught by leading trainers and consultants in their respective areas.

Some of the experts Lee has lined up include Keith Rosen, Jill Konrath, Paul McCord, Patricia Fripp, Dr. Gregory Stebbins, Anthony Parinello, Jeb Blount, Jonthan Farrington, and many others.

There are currently over 700 webinars scheduled through the end of the year with the webinars beginning in May.

Whether you’re in sales or HR, accounting or purchasing, whether you work for a Fortune 50 company or are a one person shop, Business Expert Webinars has seminars for you.  Likewise, if you need training in negotiation, making presentations, marketing, business technology, or virtually any other aspect of business, there are webinars designed to help you become more productive.

Visit the Business Expert Webinars website to get and idea of the incredible offerings there—and I think you’ll be amazed how just how reasonable the registration fee for these world-class webinars is.

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