Sales and Sales Management Blog

July 30, 2008

Interview with NYT Best-selling Author Linda Richardson about Her Newest Book, Perfect Selling

Linda Richardson has released her New York Times best-seller, Perfect Selling. This short, easy to read book deals with her 5-step process to creating a successful sales encounter.

linda-richardson-interview

Perfect Selling (McGraw Hill) is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and all fine booksellers.

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July 29, 2008

Guest Articles, “Costly Assumptions,” by Keith Rosen

Costly Assumptions
by Keith Rosen

When clients ask for help in closing more sales, I’d ask them to list the objections they are hearing that prevented the sale. It’s when they start stumbling over their response that I ask, “Are these the objections you are hearing directly from your prospects or what you’re assuming as the reason why they don’t buy?”

Whether it’s around our sales efforts, during a conversation with our boss (and our kids), or when trying to uncover ways to best manage your team, certain assumptions can dramatically affect the results we seek to achieve, especially during a conversation.

Rather than uncovering the real barrier to the sale, assuming the objection becomes a detrimental process that spreads like a virus throughout every sales call. These assumptions are not based on the facts but rather the salesperson’s assumption of the truth.

Salespeople often fall into this trap when creating solutions for their prospects. During a conversation with a prospect, they uncover a similar situation or problem that they have handled with a previous client. So, they assume that the same solution will fit for this prospect as well.

The problem arises when the salesperson fails to invest the time to go beyond what may be obvious and explore the prospect’s specific objectives or concerns.

Thinking they “know” this prospect, the salesperson provides them with the benefits of his service that he perceives to be important, without considering the prospect’s particular needs.

The next time you’re speaking with your boss, your family your employees, or if you’re on a sales call, rather than assuming the objection, how the prospect makes a buying decision, what they know or what they want to hear, follow these suggestions to create more selling opportunities.

1. Identify The Knowledge Gap.
That’s the space between what people know and what they don’t know. Instead of assuming what they know, start determining what they need/want to learn in order to fill in this gap and ensure clear communication. What may seem old or common to you is new to them. Use questions up front to uncover what’s needed to fill in the gap. Example: “Just so I don’t sound repetitive, how familiar are you with-?”

2. Be Curious.
Question everything! Since you’re in the business of providing solutions, invest the time to uncover the person’s specific need or problem, as opposed to providing common solutions that you assume may fit for everyone. For example, the words “Frustrated, successful, affordable, reliable and quality,” can be interpreted in a variety of ways and often carry a different meaning for each of us.

When you hear a prospect make a comment like, “I want a quality product that will give me the results I want at an affordable price,” use this as an opportunity to explore deeper into what they want or need most. “What type of results are you looking for?” “What is affordable to you?” Questions allow you to clarify what you have heard or go into a topic in more depth so you can become clear with what they are really saying.

3. Clarify!
Make each prospect feel that they are truly being listened to and understood. Use a clarifier when responding to what you’ve heard during the conversation. Rephrase in your own words what they had said to ensure that you not only heard, but also understood them. Then, confirm the next course of action. Examples: “What I’m hearing you say is…” “Tell me more about that.” “What do you see as the next step?”

4. Just The Facts, Please
“I told a prospect that I’d follow up within a week. Two weeks later, I figured I missed my chance and they went with someone else.” Sound familiar? Effective salespeople don’t guess themselves into a sale. To ensure you’re operating with the facts, ask yourself this, “Do I have evidence to support my assumption or how I’m feeling?” Enjoy the peace of mind that comes from gaining clarity rather than drowning in the stories that you believe are true.

5. Recall Your Learning Curve.
Think back to your first day on the job and the time it took for you to learn a new skill set. Chances are, you’ve probably experienced some frustration during the learning process. After all, at one point, all your knowledge was new to you. The same holds true for the people you come in contact with. Support others by being empathetic throughout their learning curve.

Recognize that learning and wisdom are results of experience. You’re more knowledgeable than you think, so don’t assume that your sense is common. You’ll notice that many communication breakdowns will immediately be eradicated.

Eliminating these costly assumptions will enable you to make better decisions and prevent the breakdowns in communication that act as a barrier to creating desired results, such as more sales. Once this knowledge gap has been closed, you’ll experience fewer problems and recognize greater opportunities that clearly make sense.

Keith Rosen is a prominent, engaging speaker, Master Coach and well-known author of many books and articles, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on assisting people in achieving positive, measurable change in their attitude, in their behavior and in their results. Keith’s articles can be found in Selling Power Magazine and has appeared in feature stories in The New York Times, The Washington Times, Inc. Magazine, Sales and Marketing Management’s Ultimate Motivation Guide with Stephen Covey and The Wall Street Journal. Visit Keith’s website at http://www.profitbuilders.com

July 27, 2008

Guest Article, “5 Things Salespeople Really Need From Marketing,” by Jill Konrath

Filed under: marketing,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 7:23 am
Tags: , , ,

5 Things Salespeople Really Need From Marketing
By Jill Konrath

New products and services are the lifeblood of organizations. The sales force eagerly awaits their arrival, hoping for a short-term competitive edge in a cut-throat market. Yet most new products fail to achieve the desired results in the vital first months after their introduction. When launching new products or services, here are five things Marketing can do to ensure the sales force is successful.

1. Provide a Strong Value Proposition
Weak value propositions are a leading cause of new product failures. Customers don’t buy phrases such as increased productivity, more robust or reduced cost. Quantification of the value gained is essential in today’s market. Be explicit. How much money is saved? What additional efficiencies are gained? What is the financial pay-off of getting a product to market two months sooner? Specificity sells. Use beta tests to learn this information – and then make sure to write it up in case studies.

2. Deliver Insightful Competitive Information

Salespeople need much more than a features comparison to be successful. They need to understand the competitor’s go-to-market strategy, their financial condition and any other newsworthy information. They want to know how their peers “won” the business when up against the primary competitors and the selling strategy their competitors employed. They need to know about losses too. Don’t just deliver competitive info at launch time – provide it for 3-6 months after you’ve introduced your new offering.

3. Create Diagnostic Sales Tools
Research into product launches shows that sellers are much more likely to “pitch” then than at any other time. Providing diagnostic assessment tools to salespeople helps them uncover customer problems and understand the related issues more deeply. The audit process itself builds the relationship and keeps the focus where it belongs – on your customer, not your product or service.

4. Develop Proposal/Presentation Templates
Preparing customizable proposal and presentation templates for your salespeople at launch time is an invaluable gift. For many sellers, creating these documents is takes an inordinate amount of time and quality is often mediocre. Additionally, if these templates are totally focused around customer’s needs, you can help salespeople be more effective. Plus, you ensure the consistency of your message.

5. Facilitate “How-to-Sell” Training
Most launch meetings are totally centered around the new offering – its capabilities, ordering processes, support. Certainly this info is needed, but don’t let salespeople leave the kick-off meeting yet. Facilitate discussions around how customers do things without your offering. Explore the difficulties caused by the current method and the business impact of these problems. Talk about positioning, questions they should ask and the logical next steps in the sales process. Salespeople desperately need this type of training before they make calls.

Successful new product introductions require Sales and Marketing to work together prior to launch. Involve top sellers into beta site interviews to strengthen your value proposition. Get their input on what to include in diagnostic tools, the best structure for your templates and defining good selling processes. Invite all salespeople to contribute competitive information and quickly disseminate it to others.

This is what salespeople really need from Marketing. It’s what makes all the difference between a new product’s smashing success or its descent into obscurity. Take the extra time to do it right and reap the benefits.

Jill Konrath is the author of Selling to Big Companies and  Chief Sales Officer of Selling to Big Companies (www.sellingtobigcompanies.com).  Jill is the author of hundreds of articles on selling, a popular speaker, and the founder of Sales Shebang (www.salesshebang.com), an annual conference designed to help women sellers succeed.

July 25, 2008

Is It Really Possible to Sell Like a Dog?

Filed under: business,sales,selling,small business,success — Paul McCord @ 1:44 pm
Tags: , ,

One of my readers from China, Langston Marshall, sent me an email regarding my post Selling Like a Dog. In the comments section to that post Nesh Thompson discussed how we humans don’t have the capacity to handle rejection as a dog does. Langston argues that although an amusing post, trying to relate how Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe sell to how we humans sell is futile because unlike us, dogs don’t have a concept of ‘self’ and consequently cannot suffer from the affliction of being self-conscious that stymies so many salespeople, nor do they have the concept of rejection, so their ability to rebound from rejection isn’t rebounding at all-they never felt rejected to begin with. He also that if we were void of the concept of rejection we could and probably would be as success as the dogs are.

Although I disagree to some extent with his analysis of how self aware a dog is, I don’t want to get into a discussion of dog psychology, but Langston brings up some interesting points about humans. We are, of course, self-aware beings and that self-awareness can be either beneficial or detrimental. For many of us it is very much detrimental. It’s the basis of call reluctance, our failure to ask for the order, our tendency to do busy work instead of finding and connecting with new prospects, and the little white lies and omissions we try to get away with when dealing with both prospects and clients.

We are conscious of the potential rejection, of our fear of failure, of our desire to avoid disappointment, of our self-doubt. We stand in our way to success more than anything else-probably more than all other obstacles combined. Yet, we all know salespeople who are like Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe and can either ignore the rejection, doubts, and fear or simply plow through it.

What makes these men and women capable of handling rejection and being able to work through their fear and self-doubt? Are they missing some self-awareness gene the rest of us have? Or, are they so self-assured that they just don’t have self-doubt or fear?

So often we hear the advice that it is our mindset that determines our success or failure and that in order to be able to overcome our self-doubt and fear, to be able to handle the inevitable rejection salespeople experience, and to be able to risk putting ourselves on the line by asking for the order we have to create within ourselves a success mindset. We have to overcome the negative self-talk we impose upon ourselves, we have to develop positive affirmations to encourage ourselves, and we have to reinforce our actions with positive experiences.

The above is great advice and it works if one other more rudimentary ingredient is pre-existing-commitment. We read and hear a great deal about developing the success mindset but we don’t hear nearly as much about commitment. Commitment, I think, is where Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe differ from most of us. They are committed to getting what they want-their treats. They know their goal and are willing to be turned away because they understand, maybe better than we humans, that if they don’t ask, they don’t get.

Likewise, most of the men and women I’ve known who can plow through the rejection, the disappointment and the pain associated with selling have, just like B.J. and Chloe, a very clear vision of where they are going and they are absolutely committed to reaching their objective.

Yes, they feel the same pain as the rest of us. They feel it when the rejections pile one upon the other. They do have to stand down and regroup on occasion. These aren’t supermen or wonderwomen. They use the positive self-talk and positive affirmations the trainers advocate to handle their day-to-day disappointments and to bolster their confidence and self-image. But that self-talk and those affirmations wouldn’t be effective if they didn’t have the same type of commitment to their success that B.J. and Chloe have to theirs.

I am a firm believer that we can sell like a dog-I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. It may not be common, but it is certainly possible.

July 24, 2008

3 Great Prospecting Techniques that Will Bust Your Pipeline Open

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 6:49 am

Salespeople are waking up every morning wondering where they’re going to find this month’s commission check. And although the signs of an economy that was headed for a major slowdown if not a recession have been around for almost two years, few salespeople took the time and invested the effort to prepare by learning more effective ways to find and connect with quality prospects.

The good news is it isn’t too late to change your prospecting and personal marketing strategies so they more closely match the way prospects want to be connected with and that will identify and engage more high quality prospects. You can learn techniques that will open more doors, identify more high prospects, and generate more sales.

How?

Today McCord Training is offering three one-hour tele-seminars, each deals with a separate technique of reaching quality prospects.

Never a Cold Call, Always an Introduction 1PM Central

Cold calling is a time intensive process that is frustrating for the salesperson and irritating to most prospects. Prospects have assistants, voice mail, caller ID, and other gatekeepers in place. Why? Not because they want to talk to you but because they specifically DON’T want to talk to you. Does it make sense to bang the phones trying to connect with people who you KNOW don’t want you calling?

No, it doesn’t. And you don’t have to. You can learn to turn those cold calls into real connection calls by learning how to gather the information you need before hand to be able to call the decision maker with real information about specific issues you know they have and must deal with. You can turn your cold calls into referred calls that make your call a welcome, informative call that engages your prospect’s attention and gets you appointments.

The First 10 Seconds 3PM Central

If you do cold call, you have only about 10 seconds to grab your prospect’s attention. If you can’t get their interest in 10 seconds, your call is going nowhere. Learn 4 techniques to immediately grab and retain your prospect’s interest. Learning to get your prospect’s interest will significantly improve your appointment setting ratio.

The PWWR Referral Generation System 5PM Central

Referrals are touted as the single best, most cost effective marketing method any salesperson has. Yet few salespeople are successful at acquiring a large number of high quality referrals from clients. Why? Because what they’ve been taught about referrals doesn’t work. They been taught to just “do a good job and ask for referrals.” That’s about the worst advice you can get. They’ve been taught that clients want to give referrals. The truth is clients hate giving referrals and most salespeople know that and consequently don’t ask. They’ve been taught getting referrals is a no brainer-just ask. It isn’t-it requires understanding human nature and forming a process that conforms to the way clients think and respond and to their interests and goals, not the salesperson’s.

But referrals can be the most effective, highest ROI prospecting method you have. You just can’t do it the way you’ve been taught. Generating a large number of high quality referrals requires a disciplined, predictable, client centered process that prepares the client to give referrals, lets the client know why giving you referrals is in their best interests and that makes giving a large number of high quality referrals easy for the client.

Change your 2008 results on July 24. Whether you want to learn how to be more effective at cold calling or you want to learn more effective prospecting methods, there’s a seminar for you.

Register for 1, 2 or all 3 seminars

Register for any individual seminar $67.00

Register for any two $114.00 and save 15% off individual registration fee

Register for all three $151.00 and save 25% off individual registration fee

Register NOW

July 23, 2008

Selling Like a Dog

In just under 30 years in sales I’ve had the opportunity to meet thousands upon thousands of salespeople. Some have been very good, many not so good, and a few phenomenal. But there are two that I know that are simply the best salespeople I’ve ever met. They work as a team and their closing ratio is well over 90%–most of the time with additional add-on sales to boot. I can honestly say that I’m not aware of a single serious prospect that they’ve failed to approach—ever. And they have an incredible ability to always be in the right place at the right time.

Many times we tend to overcomplicate things. We analyze things to death. We search for the smallest nuance, the tiniest little thing that might give us a bit of an edge, a little bit of an upper hand in nailing down a sale. We sometimes lose sight of the basic nature of selling which is to find a prospect, develop a relationship, make our case, overcome their objections, and close the sale. That’s the basics of a sale no matter what we sell. Of course there are twists and turns, some more complicated than others. But in the end, that’s what we all do.

Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe understand this concept better than any other salespeople I’ve ever met. More importantly, they don’t try to complicate it and they practice their craft religiously and are constantly honing their skills. And for their diligence, their highly honed skills, and commitment to being where their prospects are, they are rewarded with a fat income.

So, who are these top producers and what secrets have they learned?

Mr. B.J. is a miniature dachshund and Ms. Chloe is a miniature Yorkie. OK, yes, they’re dogs. Don’t let that fool you. They are also highly skilled salespeople with the highest close ratio I’ve ever seen, with a sense of timing we humans can only envy, and with a dogged persistence in asking for the order that puts us human salespeople to shame.

But our lessons come from their sales process. As mentioned previously, it is basic. No fancy tricks, no deception. (In the spirit of full disclosure I have to mention that in their sales process there is tons of manipulation which I don’t advocate, although I have to admit it does work wonders for them.)

Their Process:

1. Prospecting: Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe are always prospecting. They have two prospecting methods—cold calling and waiting for the occasional walk-in prospect. Since they don’t like to rely on the happenstance of walk-ins, they spend a good deal of time cold calling.

Cold calling consists of keeping a close tab on the neighborhood for any prospect—prospects being anyone outside, especially if they happen to have something to eat with them, although having food isn’t necessary.

Upon spying a prospect both are eager to introduce themselves. They wait for an appropriate opportunity and approach for the introduction. Since our block is a favorite for walkers and joggers throughout the neighborhood, they are in a constant prospecting mode, meeting dozens of potential customers daily.

If they are in the house, they are ever aware of anyone going into the kitchen. The kitchen is where sales are made and they make sure that at least one of them has the kitchen covered at all times.

2. Building relationships: Upon meeting a new prospect they concentrate on establishing a relationship, with the initial emphasis on understanding and addressing the prospect’s needs and wants. Relationship building typically entails a great deal of licking and kissing, demonstrating their sincerity and trustworthiness, as well as their eagerness to please.

They don’t rush the sale. They are content to move at the prospect’s speed, allowing them to become comfortable with the relationship before pressing for an order.

3. Making their presentation: For B.J. and Chloe, moving from the initial connection stage to the presentation stage can sometimes be a bit abrupt, somewhat like some of our less skilled human salespeople–although in this case it appears to be quite effective.

Their presentation tends to consist of sniffing the food or drink the person may have, smelling the prospect’s hands or breath for traces of food, or, if called for, dissolving into pathetic, irresistible sad-eyed looks.

4. Asking for the order: Once they’ve made their presentation, they ask for the order with lots of jumping up and down, barking and whining, and running around the prospect. No one ever fails to understand the request.

5. Overcoming objections: Neither B.J. or Chloe are willing to accept a no. An objection simply means they have not made their case persuasively enough. Upon hearing no they simply brush it off and their kisses, loving, jumping, barking, running around the prospect, and their big doe eyes become even bigger, their mournful looks become even sadder.

It takes nerves of steel to resist them and few do it successfully.

6. Asking for the add-on order: Once the prospect has bought and provided a treat, they have opened themselves up for the add-on sale. The add-on tends to be a more subtle sale than the initial sale, taking the form of nudging the bag the original treat came in or rubbing on the prospect’s leg.

7. Maintaining relationships: After they secure a new client, they make sure they follow up with regular visits and a consistent flow of kisses and leg rubs.

Their sales process is incredibly simple and straightforward. Their reward is a consistent flow of treats from our neighbors, walkers, joggers, and of course my wife and I. They’ve even managed to teach some of the neighbors what their favorite treats are (dried chicken strips, unshelled peanuts—they love to shell the peanuts themselves although it makes an incredible mess, and string cheese).

We may not be as cute as Mr. B.J. and Chloe. We may not be able to manipulate (and manipulation is never a valid part of selling for us humans) prospects as they do. But if a dog that can’t speak can follow this simple process and make tons of sales, we should be mindful that this isn’t rocket science. Their secret is simple—they meet lots of prospects, develop relationships, make a compelling presentation, overcome the objections, and ask for the order.

Yes, our sales are more complicated. No, we don’t have the cute factor working for us as they do. But we have the same opportunity Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe have. We have the same time to work with—they get all of their prospecting and selling done in about 6 to 7 hours. We have the same process. All we have to do is to be as committed to our success as they are to theirs.

July 22, 2008

Guest Article: “Compensate to Motivate,” by Lee Salz

Compensate to Motivate
By Lee Salz

When I speak to business executives, one of the challenges I often hear is that their sales team is not doing the things they feel are most critical to the success of the company. I then ask to see their compensation plan. After a thorough read, I share my impression of the message of the compensation plan and ask if this is their intention. That’s when things get scary! They look at me blankly and say, “No, our intention is for our sales people to…” For them, the disconnect has been exposed.

What many forget is that the blessing of sales is that a compensation plan doubles as a job description. However, that blessing is also a curse as a compensation plan doubles as a job description. As one executive shared after going through the aforementioned exercise, “We want our sales people to focus on selling our new product to our existing clients. Yet, we are compensating the sales people in a way that they are better off pursuing new clients.” He got it!

The incongruence of sales compensation is one of the biggest disconnects in companies. Executives sit in a board room with strategic plans of grandeur, but the plan collapses when they don’t address the compensation for the sales troops. It is a very simple equation. Sales people invest their time on activities that drive their compensation. Plain and simple. The thought that sales people will actively and consistently perform activities that are not in their best financial interests is naïve.

Further complicating matters, there are instances where sales people are compensated for delivering certain results while their managers are compensated on a different set of results. Thus, the sales managers are driving their team consistently with their compensation message, but inconsistently with their sales team members. It creates the visual of the sales manager pushing a boulder up a hill trying to get their team to focus on activities that contradict their income. Best of luck!

When structuring sales compensation plans, a company should strongly consider the goals for the company. Working backwards, the goals for the company drive the structure of the sales compensation plan. Thus, they should be directly aligned. If the company’s goal is to gain adoption of a new product in the marketplace, the plan should reward sales people for accomplishing this feat. If the goal is to increase revenue with their current clientele, the plan should reward for that. Anyone should be able to read the plan and derive the intended message.The second consideration, when structuring sales compensation plans, is that sales managers and sales people should have alignment with their respective results. If one is compensated for adding new clients and the other for selling a new product to existing clients, and it does matter which is compensated for which, the incongruence causes a paralysis of performance.

Making this more daunting is that in complex sales environments, those that have protracted buying cycles, the standard salary and commission model does not create enough of a framework to ensure that the sales team performs the right activities every day. How do you structure the plan so that the team is motivated to do the right things every hour of every day?

Employers also face a challenge of hiring sales people who are concerned about the length of time of the buying cycle in contrast to their earnings. The standard solution is to bridge the gap with a draw. As you probably know, there are two types of draws. There is the recoverable draw which is, in essence, a loan against the sales person’s future commissions. Then, there is the other, the non-recoverable draw which is money, free and clear, to the sales person for some period of time. Nothing good comes out of either of these. The recoverable draw, almost always, puts the sales person in a financial hole. They wake up each morning knowing they owe the company money. No one enjoys the feeling of debt. The non-recoverable draw, often times, creates an earnings cliff. Let’s say that the draw is for three months at $2,000 per month. In month four, the sales person probably experiences a significant fall-off in their earnings. The end result is relationship damage between the sales person and the company and a poor corporate investment. How do you structure the sales compensation plan to bridge the earnings gap when recruiting new sales people?

The challenge of motivating sales people and bridging the sales earnings gap can be solved with a creative compensation approach. In the 1980s and 1990s, the big buzz term was MBO (Management by Objective). Business people were provided with a series of objectives, and following a performance review, were compensated for achievement of such. What if the MBO concept was applied to sales compensation? What if you created a Sales Behavioral Objective or SBO?

If you are reading this and think that I’ve just created additional sales cost, think again. I’m proposing a reallocation of the dollars paid to your sales team. A percentage of the dollars normally budgeted for commissions would be allocated for an SBO bonus.

Consider this. A company has a typical buying process with its clientele that is six months long. They pay their sales people a base salary of $60,000. At 100% of plan, the sales person earns $90,000 or $30,000 over their base salary. However, no commissions are earned in their first six months of employment due to the buying cycle. The company, as a means of managing sales behaviors and attracting strong sales talent, budgets $15,000 of the $30,000 of commissions for the SBO bonus. The sales person is then eligible to earn a $3,500 bonus each quarter in year one.At the beginning of each quarter, the sales person has a formal review where the results of the prior quarter are shared and the mission for the second is presented. The SBO changes from quarter to quarter based on the tenure of the sales person and the needs of the business. The SBO is also not a “gimme.” 100% accomplishment should be a stretch goal, but achievable for the sales person.

In the first quarter, the overall mission is getting the sales person assimilated into the company’s environment. The measurements of success at the end of the quarter are: a business/territory plan, the ability for the sales person to call on prospects, and knowledge of the products. As measurement of achievement, the company provides a written test on product knowledge, a scored, mock sales call, a scored, mock, sales presentation, and review of their business/territory plan. Based on the sales person’s accomplishments, they will receive a percentage of the $3,500 up to 100%.

In future quarters, a points system is put in place, making the SBO entirely objective, tied to performing the activities deemed critical for the success of the business. In each quarter, the goal is for the sales person to achieve 100 points. The main objective in the second quarter for this company is to have face-to-face meetings with qualified prospects. They are looking for their sales person to have twenty face-to-face meetings in the quarter as a way to jump start their sales pipeline. Thus, the SBO compensates five points for each meeting held. At the end of the quarter, whatever percentage the sales person delivers of the 100 points, with a minimum achievement of 75%, is paid as a bonus. This includes those who over perform. Why penalize them for doing more of the right things? What about quality? How do you know they are doing the right things in the prospect meeting? Hopefully, you measured their proficiency in doing those things in the first quarter.

The SBO program, in future quarters, is designed by identifying key, measurable sales activities aligned with the needs of the business. Place weighting on the activities commensurate with your expectations of the sales person.

Some of you are probably thinking, “No way, I pay for results!” Well, results are a function of doing the right things each and every day. Results are not miraculous. They are formulaic. The reality is that you have skin in the game with the SBO. As a business executive, you and your team are tasked with determining what it takes for a sales person to generate the results you desire. If you have done your job of identifying the success metrics and the sales person achieves those, the results take care of themselves. The SBO is not just for year one since the challenge of managing sales behaviors is perpetual. One important key is to budget enough dollars for the SBO bonus that it gets the attention of the sales people, but not so high that it overshadows commissions.

The bottom line is that the SBO program gives you the tool kit to channel the energy of the sales team toward achieving that goal. It also provides you with a mechanism to attract sales talent to your company where, right on day one, they need to perform to earn dollars over their salary. One other benefit of this program for those companies with lengthy buying processes, the SBO provides you with a way to assess the sales person’s performance in a way that you can identify, more quickly, those who will not be successful in your company.

One thing is for sure, the executive team of the company in the story knows that if they paid a sales person $15,000 SBO bonus in year one, year two and beyond are going to be stellar.

Lee Salz is the founder of Sales Dodo, a training and consulting company dedicated to helping companies, sales managers, and sales people adapt and thrive in the ever changing world of business. He uses the metaphor of the dodo to show what happens when one fails to adapt. Those who adapt, thrive. Those who don’t become extinct like the dodo bird of ages ago. Visit his website at www.salesdodo.com.

Lee is also the creator of Business Expert Webinars, the premier source of great sales, management and leadership training via webinars.

July 21, 2008

Netting a Return on Networking

Networking.  For many, if not most, salespeople and managers that word evokes images of the Chamber of Commerce networking nights, the breakfast lead exchange groups, and pestering mom, dad, the black sheep uncle, and anyone else that might be able to cough up lead.

That word may also conjure up memories-maybe really recent memories from like, yesterday-of wasted time, a room full of no real prospects, dad’s agonized tone of voice that belies his smile and can’t hide his unease with the request to give a referral to his friends and acquaintances.

Although there are many good books on networking, many salespeople are still spending a good deal of time and effort seeking to network in the wrong places, with the wrong people, and with the wrong goals.  They view networking as a grazing activity, seeking out venues where they can find a sizable group of men and women, and spit out their ‘value proposition’ to as many of them as possible in as little time as possible.  Favorite haunts tend to be the local chamber of commerce; the networking events of various local business associations and groups; lead exchange breakfast groups; and the proverbial family and friends.

Not surprisingly, few salespeople who approach networking in this manner find their time and effort to be well spent.  Grazing for contacts and leads generally doesn’t work because it violates some key aspects of business and human nature.

Location, location, location.  The old real estate adage applies to networking as well.  Where you network is of prime importance.

Although easy, floating into the chamber networking event isn’t likely to produce results.  In most instances, these events are overwhelmingly dominated by other salespeople who are also looking for the opportunity to meet new prospects–and who are not the least bit interested in being sold to.  Instead of finding yourself in a room of 125 prospects, it is far more likely to find yourself in a room of 100 salespeople and 25 business owners and managers-of which only a very small handful would be quality prospects for you.  Certainly you can meet prospects.  And certainly there are sales made from the contacts developed at chamber meetings.  But the return on time and energy investment is usually extremely small.

Lead exchange groups can be very viable opportunities for those selling the right products and services.  A mechanic or quick print company might find a lead exchange group to be an extremely valuable source of new business.  On the other hand, a salesperson selling enterprise solutions or a management recruiter would more than likely find little if any success in one of these groups.  Nevertheless, I’ve know management consultants, copyright attorneys, and financial services salespeople who sell money management services with a minimum portfolio size of a million dollars who invested their time and energy in these groups before they discovered it was a poor match for their services.

This is not to say that networking through groups can’t be worthwhile.  It can.  You just have to spend your time and energy in the right places.  Where are the right places?  That, of course, depends on what you sell, but whatever you sell, the right place is where you’ll find a large number of legitimate prospects and that tends to be in specialized organizations and associations.

If you sell high end printing equipment, you want to spend your time where prospects who purchase high-end printing equipment gather-say the local associations for architects, manufacturers, or design companies.  If you sell financial services, you would spend you time where there are likely a number of wealthy prospects.  You want to be where your prospects are, it’s that simple.

Networking general business groups tends to be low return; networking specialized groups where your prospects gather tends to be high return.  Although this is common sense, it goes against the grain of what most salespeople do.

Human Nature: Networking events are usually a terrible time to try to market yourself because you’re going against the grain of the objectives of most of the participants.  There will certainly be a few participants at these events whose only objective is to meet new people or to mingle with friends, but most are there for one reason-to find and connect with prospects.  And how do they intend to do that?  By spending their time talking about themselves.

Probably more than 80% of the contacts you make at a typical networking event have little interest in hearing your story because that’s not what they are there for.  They are there to get their story out.  Their networking methodology is to float from person to person until they find a live target and then to try to wow them with their value proposition and set an appointment.  This is hardly an atmosphere conducive to finding and connecting with quality prospects.

Even if you invest your time in organizations and associations that are full of your prime prospects you can’t go with the intent of collaring prospects and spewing forth your value proposition, your product’s benefits, and how great you are.  Networking is a process, not a one-time event.  Networking is about developing relationships, not grazing for low hanging fruit.

To successfully network takes time, commitment, and a sincere desire to get to know-and help-people.   Networking isn’t a short-term sales generator; rather it is a long-term business builder.

Networking in an organization or association requires a commitment on your part to the organization.  Thinking you can just show up at a networking event and have an impact is going to be disappointing.  But becoming involved-becoming a part of the group can generate a great deal of sustained business because it caters to the way human beings think and how they respond to others.

Humans have a tendency to view their own problems as somewhat unique.  Intellectually they recognize the universality of their own issues, but emotionally they view their problems as distinctly their own.  This tendency to view problems as unique can be one of the most powerful opportunities a salesperson can take advantage of.

Although few problems a trucking company encounters are truly unique to the trucking industry, most decision makers in trucking companies view their industry’s issues as unique to the trucking industry.  Likewise, most decision makers in the printing business view their issues as unique to the printing industry.  This isn’t to say that the issue per se is unique but that the particulars of the issue are industry unique.  If the particulars are unique, then the solution is undoubtedly somewhat unique also.  If the particulars and the solution is unique, then it is natural that the decision maker wants to work with someone who really ‘understands’ their issues.

That ‘understanding’ is where your opportunity comes in play.

By joining and becoming a part of their industry’s association, you become one of the team-in other words, you’re perceived to really ‘understand’ the ‘uniqueness’ of their problems and issues and consequently you understand the solutions they need.  People want to work with people they believe recognize and understand the uniqueness of their needs, issues and problems, not someone who treats every business and every situation in the same manner with a canned ‘solution.’  The heart specialist can charge more and is more highly respected than the family generalist because she has a unique understanding of the issues and solutions of the patient.  When seeking a divorce, most people seek out a divorce lawyer rather than a generalist because they believe the specialist has knowledge and skills the generalist doesn’t.

By becoming a part of the team you put yourself in the position of an industry specialist-you ‘know’ and ‘understand,’ and that knowing and understanding sets you apart from your competitors.  You go to the top of the list when one of the members of the organization needs your services.  You become an expert, not a generalist.

The key to successfully networking within these organizations and associations is to become an actual part of the group.  You can’t just show up at networking events-if you do you’ll be viewed as nothing more than an opportunist.  You have get in and work with the group-volunteer for committee work, help on fundraisers, pay your dues-both in terms of money and sweat.

It’s About the Prospect, Not You: Networking is about relationships and relationships are built on mutual respect, understanding, and a sincere desire to know the other person.  To connect means to bond with the other person and bonding takes time.

Most people love to talk about themselves and they tend to naturally like and respect those people who allow them to do that.  Instead of spending your time talking about yourself and your value proposition, spending the vast majority of your initial meeting-even your initial two or three meetings-learning about the other person will pay great dividends in the long run.  Don’t rush to talk about your value proposition, your products or services, what you do for companies, or even your background.  Concentrate on getting to know the person in front of you-there will be plenty of time later to get to you and what you do.

When you let people talk you learn a great deal about them, about their likes, their history, their wants and needs, their hopes and dreams-and very quickly you learn whether or not they are viable prospects.  The more they talk, the more you learn.  The more you learn, the better opportunity you will have later to direct the conversation in directions that naturally lead to how you can serve them.

Most salespeople spend far too much time talking and far too little time listening.  This is especially so when networking.  Learn to keep you mouth shut and your ears open.  Allow your new acquaintance to lead the conversation by doing exactly what you want them to do-talk about themselves, their business, their needs.  If you remember, Peter Faulk as Columbo didn’t speak much, asked a great many questions, and always got what he wanted in the end because the suspect always ended up telling him what he needed to know-either directly or indirectly.  Turns out selling is similar-prospects always tell you what you need to know in the end if you can keep you mouth shut, ask lots of questions, and like Columbo, know how to listen.

Networking can generate a tremendous return on investment if done correctly.  By just going where your prospects go, understanding the natural tendency of humans to view their problems and issues as unique and becoming that uniquely qualified specialist who understand their issues and the solutions, and allowing your prospect to talk will open a lot more doors than trying to graze the low fruit at artificial networking events.

July 20, 2008

Alltop.com–The Best Sales and Sales Management Blogs on the Net in One Place

Have you visited alltop.com yet?  If not, head over to http://sales.alltop.com/ and you’ll find about four dozen of the absolute best sales and sales management blogs there are.  Each has been selected because of its quality content and regular posting.

There are a couple that I think they should add, but not many.  These guys have scoured the internet and have really come up with the best of the best.  As they find additional top blogs, they’ll add them.

On Alltop you’ll find blogs by Brian Carroll, Jill Konrath, Dave Stein, Dave Kurlan, Bill Caskey, myself, and many others.  Not all of the blogs listed are articles blogs, there are sales community blogs, as well as a few specialty sales area blogs, compilations of podcasts and some others.  But all are high quality-as I said, pretty much the best of the best.

Take a look, bookmark them, and visit often.  You’ll be glad you did.

July 19, 2008

Prospecting is Getting Tough–Are You Prepared?

More and more of us in sales are finding it more and more difficult to keep our pipelines full with high quality prospects.  The slowing economy is putting a great deal of pressure on prospects-both business and individual–to think very carefully before they commit to any purchase.  Consumer confidence is down.  Unemployment is inching up.  Inflation is becoming a concern.  Both oil and the stock market are on wild rides.

Salespeople are waking up every morning wondering where they’re going to find this month’s commission check.  And although the signs of an economy that was headed for a major slowdown if not a recession have been around for almost two years, few salespeople took the time and invested the effort to prepare by learning more effective ways to find and connect with quality prospects.

The good news is it isn’t too late to change your prospecting and personal marketing strategies so they more closely match the way prospects want to be connected with and that will identify and engage more high quality prospects.  You can learn techniques that will open more doors, identify more high prospects, and generate more sales.

How?

To start, next Thursday, July 24 McCord Training is offering three one-hour tele-seminars, each deals with a separate technique of reaching quality prospects.

Never a Cold Call, Always an Introduction   1PM Central

Cold calling is a time intensive process that is frustrating for the salesperson and irritating to most prospects.  Prospects have assistants, voice mail, caller ID, and other gatekeepers in place.  Why?  Not because they want to talk to you but because they specifically DON’T want to talk to you.  Does it make sense to bang the phones trying to connect with people who you KNOW don’t want you calling?

No, it doesn’t.  And you don’t have to.  You can learn to turn those cold calls into real connection calls by learning how to gather the information you need before hand to be able to call the decision maker with real information about specific issues you know they have and must deal with.  You can turn your cold calls into referred calls that make your call a welcome, informative call that engages your prospect’s attention and gets you appointments.

The First 10 Seconds  3PM Central

If you do cold call, you have only about 10 seconds to grab your prospect’s attention.  If you can’t get their interest in 10 seconds, your call is going nowhere.  Learn 4 techniques to immediately grab and retain your prospect’s interest.  Learning to get your prospect’s interest will significantly improve your appointment setting ratio.

The PWWR Referral Generation System  5PM Central

Referrals are touted as the single best, most cost effective marketing method any salesperson has.  Yet few salespeople are successful at acquiring a large number of high quality referrals from clients.  Why?  Because what they’ve been taught about referrals doesn’t work.  They been taught to just “do a good job and ask for referrals.”  That’s about the worst advice you can get.  They’ve been taught that clients want to give referrals.  The truth is clients hate giving referrals and most salespeople know that and consequently don’t ask.  They’ve been taught getting referrals is a no brainer-just ask.  It isn’t-it requires understanding human nature and forming a process that conforms to the way clients think and respond and to their interests and goals, not the salesperson’s.

But referrals can be the most effective, highest ROI prospecting method you have.  You just can’t do it the way you’ve been taught.  Generating a large number of high quality referrals requires a disciplined, predictable, client centered process that prepares the client to give referrals, lets the client know why giving you referrals is in their best interests and that makes giving a large number of high quality referrals easy for the client.

Change your 2008 results on July 24.  Whether you want to learn how to be more effective at cold calling or you want to learn more effective prospecting methods, there’s a seminar for you.

Register for 1, 2 or all 3 seminars

Register for any individual seminar $67.00

Register for any two $114.00  and save 15% off individual registration fee

Register for all three $151.00  and save 25% off individual registration fee

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