Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 3, 2015

The Myth of Selling as a Highly Paid Profession

We in sales work in what we like to claim is one of the highest paid professions, yet statistics indicate we are, in fact, employed in one of the lowest paying professions.  In fact, we are engaged in a business that is unevenly divided between a relatively small group of highly skilled professionals, earning some of the highest wages in the world, and a huge group of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, earning unskilled and semi-skilled wages.

One of the Lowest Paid Professions

Take a look at the following income statistics for some other professions (these are MEDIAN incomes gathered from various job and industry sites, meaning half those in the profession make less than the income listed, while the other half make more that the income listed):

Truck Driver:
Median income for those with less than 1-year experience:  $30,539
Median income for those with 10 years experience:                $48,654

Business Banker:
Less than one-year experience:   $42,000
10 years experience:                         82,539

Registered Nurse:
Less than one-year experience:    $44,969
10 years experience:                          58,988

Dentist:
Less than one-year experience:     $98,041
10 years experience:                         122,248

Family Physician:
Less than one-year experience    $101,423
10 years experience:                        130,593

CPA:
Less than one-year experience:    $47,218
10 years experience:                         68,968

Attorney:
Less than one-year experience:    $57,494
10 years experience:                        102,709

Engineer:
Less than one-year experience:    $55,011
10 years experience:                          81,221

Plumber:
Less than one-year experience:    $35,697
10 years experience:                          50,107

Carpenter:
Less than one-year experience:    $28,885
10 years experience:                          50,319

Now, here’s the median income for sales:
Less than one year’s experience:   $32,500
10 years experience:                           47,240

Notice something?  The only professions we start at a higher rate of pay are truck driver and carpenter-but by the 10th year we’re trailing them, as well as every other profession listed, in median income.

Can We Really Call This a Profession?

Why do so many of us make so little?  What do the other professions do that we don’t?

One glaring factor is education and training.  Seven of the ten non-sales professions above require a minimum of a college degree-along with additional specialized training.  Only two-banking and carpentry-don’t require a professional license of some sort (OK, some engineers don’t have to be licensed either, but a great many do). 

And sales?  With a few exceptions by product or company, no degree required.  Specialized training?  None required and little, if any, sales training provided by most companies.  Certainly, most companies provide product training; they want their salespeople to know the company’s products and services.  But most companies offer little sales training. 

Selling is one of the few professions where the ‘professional’ is often left to train him or herself because, after all, anyone can do it.  Give someone a phone and a list and they’re a salesperson, right?

Few professions or trades allow an untrained individual to “practice” their “craft,” because until trained, they don’t have a craft to practice.  That’s certainly not the way most companies and salespeople see selling.

No rational person would accept a doctor or lawyer who had not received extensive formal training in his or her profession and then proven a minimum level of competence by passing a professional licensing exam.  Likewise, we expect those engaged in skilled trades such as plumbing and truck driving to also have both formal training and certification in their profession.

The reward for their training?  For many, the rewards of their training are job satisfaction and enjoyment, but the primary reward is increased wages.  We naturally expect that the more time-and money invested in one’s professional training, the larger the income reward. 

A doctor will invest 8 to 10 years beyond college in learning the basics of his or her craft and is rewarded with one of the top wages in the country.  An attorney will invest 3 or more years beyond college and is likewise rewarded with top wages.  Plumbers go through an apprenticeship and extensive testing to acquire their license and are rewarded with a top hourly wage, and those plumbers who continue their studies beyond the Journeyman stage and proceed on to become Master Plumbers are rewarded with even more income.

Yet few salespeople have undergone extensive and comprehensive sales training.   We, as a group, are woefully under trained, yet we expect to make professional wages. 

The typical company gives their sales team members less than 50 hours a year in formal training-and the majority of that training isn’t sales training but is rather product training.  Studies have discovered that the typical salesperson invests less than 30 hours a year–two hours a month–in study and training outside of what they receive from their company.

As a group, we are among the least prepared and skilled of any profession or trade.  Is it any wonder we are also one of the poorest paid?

The Professionals Amongst Us

Nevertheless, there are a great many highly skilled professionals in the sales industry, men and women who through hard work and substantial personal investment of their time and money have developed the knowledge and skills to reach the top of their profession. 

Although many average and less than average salespeople rationalize these top performer’s success as nothing but luck, having been given a book of business by a favorable manager, or as simply being a ‘natural,’ that is seldom the reality of their success. 

Top producers for the most part entered the sales profession in the same way as most salespeople–by accident, without knowing anything about selling, without the contacts and skills needed to succeed.  Most struggled for months or even years before they discovered the ‘secret’ to success. 

Virtually all of these top producers were given the standard advice to always be prospecting, ask for referrals, spend time in building rapport, find and solve the prospect’s needs, ask for the order.  Like most salespeople, they were told what they should do but were never taught how to do it. 

It wasn’t until they began to acquire training on their own through reading, listening to tapes and CDs, attending seminars and workshops, and diligently applying what they learned that they began to move from unskilled laborer to true sales professional.  Many, if not most, in this group invest anywhere from 200 to 300 hours per year or more in personal training and skill development-that’s 7 to 10 times the investment in training as the average salesperson.  Is it then any wonder they are not only better prepared to sell, but make 2, 5, 10, 20 or 30 times what the average salesperson makes?

Professional or Semi-skilled Laborer-It’s Your Choice

You don’t become a sales professional or stay an unskilled or semi-skilled laborer by accident.  You either do those things that will make you a highly paid professional, or you do those things that will keep you in the unskilled or semi-skilled labor category. 

You get to choose whether you want to become a professional and enjoy professional wages-or whether you’re happy being an unskilled laborer.  There are thousands of quality books, CDs, seminars, workshops and other training opportunities available.  You can pinpoint your specific needs and find a multitude of training resources to address them.  All you need do is commit yourself to getting and applying the needed training, and then do a simple Google search to find thousands of learning opportunities.

If you’re waiting for your company to train you, you stand an excellent chance of never growing beyond a semi-skilled wage.  You control your destiny.  Yes, it takes a commitment of time, energy and money-but rewards are not only a far more enjoyable and satisfying job, but also one that will provide you with the income you dreamed of when you entered sales.

 

 

February 8, 2013

You Have to Act the Part to Become the Part

Back in the days when Indians roamed the range, before leather helmets, when the Flying Wedge was all the rage, I played football in high school.  My high school team wasn’t all that great since I went to the new high school in town and the city fathers finagled it so that most of the good players went to the old, established school. 

We had a coach who would tell us that in order to become the player we wanted to be, we had to act the part to become the part—that is, we had to act like good football players in order to become good football players.

That small bit of advice has a tremendous amount of wisdom packed into it—and a lot of room for misinterpretation. 

First let me say what Coach didn’t mean—seems especially important in today’s culture.  Acting the part didn’t mean trash talking, acting like the school stud, or grandstanding.  He would never put up with someone putting on airs, demanding special treatment, or getting too big for their britches. 

Acting the part meant imitating the play of a quality player—doing those things that the good players do that make them good. 

Acting the part means forgetting that one might be relatively new or inexperienced or hasn’t mastered necessary skills

It means consciously forcing oneself to go through the same motions good players go through, using the same techniques and strategies, assuming the same confidence and self assurance (and faking it if necessary).

The philosophy behind Coach’s words is simply that you cannot become the person you want to be if you don’t do the things that person would do.

That small bit of advice works not only in sports but in all aspects of life, especially in selling.

Are you not the seller you want to be?  Are you new or haven’t produced in the past at the level you want?  Are you not one of the top sellers in your organization?  Are you not at the top of your industry?

You can be—but not unless you act the part of a top seller, doing the things top sellers do.

I have heard literally thousands of average or slightly above average—and especially below average–sellers claim that they want to sell their way rather than imitating the top people in their organization.  Some say they “can’t” sell the way the top sellers do, others that they know a better way.  Ultimately they all have the same thing in common—they never make it to the top level.

There are thousands who claim to be sales trainers and gurus, all ready and willing to give you the secrets of selling success for the right price.  And much of what they sell is really good and will help you increase your sales.  I’m not downplaying the role of a quality trainer—after all, I’m one. 

That being said, the quickest, surest way to becoming a top seller is to simply act like a top seller, doing the things a top seller does.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly the “act” becomes the reality.

 

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January 2, 2013

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Filed under: sales,sales training,selling,success,team development — Paul McCord @ 11:53 am
Tags: , ,

Virtually every business day I receive at least one, and often as many as four, unsolicited requests to post blog articles on my blog from sales trainers I do not know and most often have never heard of before receiving their email.  What I have learned from these requests is both disappointing and disturbing.

It is more than reasonable to assume that sales trainers not only know how to generate sales but that they also practice what they preach.

Based on the requests I receive to help sales trainers expand their reach and influence more people by posting their articles on my blog the concept of practicing what one preaches is foreign to a good segment of the sales training community.

One of the fundamentals of sales is to concentrate on your prospect rather than on yourself.  As sellers we have to have a message that appeals to our prospect, that is, it meets a need the prospect has or it fulfills a desire or want.  At the least we need to put our offer in a format that answers the most basic prospect question of “what’s in it for me?”

It would be absurd to approach a prospect with a proposal that totally focused on our needs and totally ignores the prospect.

But that is exactly how sales trainers who should know better approach requesting help from someone they do not know and who does not know them.

Why is this issue one that should concern you?

I think it is a reflection of the state of the sales training industry.  Let me point out a few of the more glaring issues with sales trainers—and very possibly the training they provide—the above reveals:

  1.  They don’t recognize a sales situation when they are in one.  How a trainer approaches me tells me a great deal about them.  I don’t need nor do I expect a trainer to do anything for me in order for me to post their article—if it is good I’ll post it.  But the trainer who is requesting my help can’t make that assumption.  When they approach me or anyone else to solicit our help they must recognize that they are in a selling situation and therefore must act accordingly.
  2. They don’t practice the fundamentals of selling.  As noted above, one of the fundamentals of selling is to focus on the prospect, not on oneself.  But in most cases the solicitation email I receive is totally focused on what I can do for them without so much as a thank you for your time.
  3. They can’t effectively teach what they don’t practice.  In many respects selling is similar to sports—consistent, effective practice is the foundation for success.  Although we might be able to mouth the right words, if we aren’t actively practicing what we preach we really can’t be effective teachers.  Like sellers, sales trainers need to be immersed in sales and that means actively practicing selling.  Sales training is more than simply saying the right things, it is demonstrating through practice what works; it is turning words into actions.  If one cannot turn words into actions in their own life how can they expect to effectively help others do what they can’t?

I attach a great deal of importance to how a sales trainer solicits me to post an article they’ve written as I believe it tells me a great deal about them as a seller and thus as a sales trainer.  If they aren’t demonstrating the fundamentals of selling I ignore their request.  The fact that so many fail that simple test isn’t surprising but it is very disappointing and disconcerting.

Whether you’re a seller seeking a sales training coach or a sales leader looking to hire someone to do training for your team, find out how they sell, it will tell you a great deal about what to expect from them—and don’t be surprised if their real message is “do as I say, not as I do.”

August 1, 2012

Is Your Sales Team Training and Development Being Sabotaged from Within?

Filed under: management,sales,Sales Management,sales training — Paul McCord @ 11:43 am
Tags: , ,

Yesterday the CEO of a mid-size financial services company complained that no matter how carefully they designed their sales process and the accompanying training, they have been unsuccessful in establishing a consistent, long-term implementation of the process throughout the company.

Yesterday certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this lament—and it certainly won’t be the last.

There are a number of possible reasons for sales training failure from treating sales training as an event instead of an ongoing behavior change process, to salespeople who view attending sales training sessions as torture, to the company’s failure to provide follow-up coaching for the sales team.  All of these are real issues that can negate any potential success you might experience from your investment in sales training.

But there is another cause of training failure that isn’t addressed as often but can be more destructive to your company’s training efforts than any other single factor—your sales managers.

Are your sales managers reassuring their charges that, “yes, you have to go to the training, but don’t worry; just go and when you get back, sell the way you’ve always sold?” 

Maybe they don’t believe in the training you’re giving and are intentionally training their team in different processes and tactics? 

Maybe they are meeting their quota and are fearful that a change of process will hurt rather than help.

Maybe they simply don’t like change and prefer to do things the way they’ve always done them.

Maybe, heaven forbid, they just don’t care.

If you fail to get full buy-in from your sales management team to the specific training and process you are presenting, you will not have comprehensive and universal implementation of the training. 

Your frontline sales managers who work with their team members have more influence on how your salespeople sell than anyone else—more than senior executives, more than middle sales management, more than the training department, more than HR, more than the expensive sales trainers you hire.

If they don’t believe, the salespeople won’t believe.  If they don’t reinforce the messages, the strategies, and the tactics, those occasional training sessions will be nothing more than expensive exercises in futility.

How do you get all of your sales managers on the same page?

Before you ever put a salesperson in a training workshop or seminar, each and every manager must have gone through the management version of the training.  Each manager must understand what the company’s comprehensive, unified sales process is and how the particular training that is scheduled fits in the big picture; what short and long-term results are to be expected; what their job is in reinforcing and coaching the training; and what criteria will be used to determine the success or failure of the training.

Most of all, each manager must believe in the process and strategy.  .

Whether the training is presented by an in-house trainer or by a professional trainer brought in from outside, each segment of training should consist of a management segment designed to gain manager buy-in and to give them the tools and knowledge they will need to coach sellers once they are back at the office and a segment for salespeople that is attended by their managers.

And although the initial cost of training in terms of both time and money will increase, the long-term result will be reduced waste of training dollars and increased sales.  That wished for unified sales process will begin to become a reality because the biggest determent to success has been turned into the biggest promoter of success.

Connect with me on Twitter: @paul_mccord

Or on facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/McCordTraining.

May 9, 2011

Register for the 2011 Sales and Marketing Success Conference

Article first published as ‘http://technorati.com/business/small-business/article/help-japan-and-attend-one-of/ Help Japan and Attend One of the Web Sessions of the 2011 Sales and Marketing Success Conference Beginning Monday, May 9</a> on Technorati.

The 2011 Sales and Marketing Success Conference, a five day web-based conference featuring 35 of the top sales minds in the world begins tomorrow, Monday, May 9 at Noon Eastern as Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies and SNAP Selling,  starts the conference off with a session titled Selling Successfully to Crazy-Busy People.

Each session will be a quick but highly targeted 30 minutes.

Each day features 7 different sessions, each lead by a different leading light in the world of sales training and coaching.

Just a few of the top names featured during the week are: Linda Richardson, Dave Kurlan, Colleen Francis, Nigel Edelshain, John Doerr, Wendy Weiss, Dave Stein, and many, many more.

Sessions will cover virtually every segment of the sales process, including how to successfully use social media, as well as sessions on leadership and sales management.

You can see the whole list of sessions HERE

And here’s even better news—when you attend any given session you’ll be helping the Red Cross in their mission in Japan.

Jonathan Farrington, the host of the conference says,

Just four weeks after the Magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and a tsunami which delivered 46ft waves, we learn that the death toll is likely to top 25.000, and recovery is going to take not years, but possibly decades, maybe even a generation, at a cost of at least $250 billion.

This is our opportunity to show that the sales community – so often derided for being shallow and materialistic, amongst other things – actually has a very big heart.

We plan to charge just $5 registration fee per presentation, and we are limited to 1000 guests per session, so places will be allocated on a “first come – first served” basis.

Can I count on your support? Together we can make a worthwhile *contribution to the people of Japan.

That’s right, it only costs $5 to attend any one session and 100% of those dollars will be donated to the Red Cross specifically for Japan.  At the end of each session you’ll be given an opportunity to donate an additional $1, $5, or $10 if you so wish.

Here is a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the efforts in Japan and get great training at the same time. 

What a great deal!!!

I encourage you to seriously consider attending my session Friday, May 13 at noon Eastern time as I’ll be giving you the tools you’ll need to do the detective work to figure out exactly who your client knows that you know you want to be referred to—and knowing that will allow you to both greatly increase the number of referrals you get and, more importantly, get referrals to prospects that you know are great prospects for you.

Here is the registration page for my session.

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to help yourself improve your sales while helping those who are in desperate need of help.

April 15, 2011

2011 Sales and Marketing Success Conference—Improve Your Skills and Help Japan at the Same time

Get out your calendar and start making plans for the week of Monday, May 9 through Friday, the 13th.  During those five days you’ll have the opportunity to attend up to 35 incredible webinar sessions—7 every single day—presented by 35 of the top sales minds in the world. 

Each session will be a quick but highly targeted 30 minutes.

Who are some of these presenters?  Well, there’s Dave Kurlan, Jill Konrath, Kelley Robertson, Colleen Francis, Linda Richardson, John Doerr, myself, and many others.  Topics covered will range from Sales 101 Isn’t Enough: Advanced Selling Capabilities For Outselling Your Competition to 7 Habits of Highly Effective (Social) Salespeople to Successfully Profiting from the New Buying Cycle to my session on Build a Successful Business on Referrals by Knowing Who Your Client Knows and, of course, many, many more.

You can see the whole list of sessions HERE

And here’s even better news—when you attend any given session you’ll be helping the Red Cross in their mission in Japan.

Jonathan Farrington, the host of the conference says,

Just four weeks after the Magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and a tsunami which delivered 46ft waves, we learn that the death toll is likely to top 25.000, and recovery is going to take not years, but possibly decades, maybe even a generation, at a cost of at least $250 billion.

This is our opportunity to show that the sales community – so often derided for being shallow and materialistic, amongst other things – actually has a very big heart.

We plan to charge just $5 registration fee per presentation, and we are limited to 1000 guests per session, so places will be allocated on a “first come – first served” basis.

Can I count on your support? Together we can make a worthwhile *contribution to the people of Japan.

That’s right, it only costs $5 to attend any one session and 100% of those dollars will be donated to the Red Cross specifically for Japan.  At the end of each session you’ll be given an opportunity to donate an additional $1, $5, or $10 if you so wish.

Here is a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the efforts in Japan and get great training at the same time. 

What a great deal!!!

I encourage you to seriously consider attending my session Friday, May 13 at noon Eastern time as I’ll be giving you the tools you’ll need to do the detective work to figure out exactly who your client knows that you know you want to be referred to—and knowing that will allow you to both greatly increase the number of referrals you get and, more importantly, get referrals to prospects that you know are great prospects for you.

Here is the registration page for my session.

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to help yourself improve your sales while helping those who are in desperate need of help.

April 14, 2011

A Tale of Three Villages

This was related to me by a sales executive—I’ll refer to him as Robert–who swears it is a true story.  Although I have his permission to use his name, I’ve chosen not to for as you will see, the story is not complimentary to the company he was working for (and it’s too pleasant a Spring to worry about a law suit).

Like many other companies, Robert began, we had gone through a terrible year in 2008. 

I had joined the company as chief sales officer at the beginning of 2007, just a very few months before the economy really began to hurt our sales.

During the course of the year we had cut back on everything—even to the point that office supplies were monitored, hourly employees were forbidden to work overtime, a hiring freeze was instituted which not only meant that no new positions could be created but if someone quit or were terminated we couldn’t replace them.  There were no merit raises, and, of course, there we no bonuses.  Travel, training, meeting, and other “non-essential” budgets were greatly reduced if not entirely eliminated.

We in the sales department were under a great deal of pressure to bring in business—any business.  At first, profit margins were watched with an eagle eye, but after a few months the goal was to get a sale at virtually any price.  The entire sales staff was working under tremendous pressure.  Two satellite sales offices were closed during the year as well as one branch office.  The national and all regional sales meetings were cancelled.

Despite the emphasis on bringing in business at any cost, sales were still down by almost 20% for the year—and 2009 looked like it would be even worse.  The company posted a loss for the first time in almost 15 years and we knew that the following year would be an even bigger loss the way things were going.

During the first quarter of 2009 all the department heads and executives were called in for a strategy meeting.  The goal was to figure out what could be done to stop the bleeding.  I was to lay out in detail what was needed in the sales department. 

When it finally came my turn to present, I started with an overview of 2008’s sales and the current projections for 2009.  I then wanted to make a case for funding an aggressive training program starting immediately.  During the previous year our one in-house trainer had quit and wasn’t replaced.  We instituted some training during weekly sales meetings but that was totally inadequate.  For several years prior to the recession when business was really good the company had cut back on the amount of training it provided.  Business was coming in and frankly they didn’t see a reason to spend the dollars.  As I said, we had a company trainer but he wasn’t really a sales trainer although he had gone through one of the major sales training systems and was our “official” sales trainer so to speak, supplemented by our branch and regional managers and on occasion me.

Rather than giving a straight forward argument for increased training of the sales team and the associated expenditure, I decided to tell a story that I thought might illustrate the need better than simple facts.

I stood up and started:

“Around the mid to last half of the 19th century in the Midwest farming was becoming the backbone of communities.  Small farming villages were constantly forming as more and more farmers developed their farms.  Often these communities were founded on a river.

“In one area in particular at about the same time, three farming villages were founded, each on a fork of the same river. 

“Each village was thriving as more framing families moved into their area.  Over the years, additional commercial interests began to move into each community.

“For many years life was good.

“But from the beginning, each community took a different view of the fork of the river they lived on.

“The first village understood that the river was the source of their livelihood.  The village council made sure that the river was well maintained.  Any trash that was found in the river was removed.  If sand, silt, or rocks began to build up around the banks of the river, it was cleared out.  About every couple of decades they dredged the river if they needed to.

“But the elders of the second and third villages didn’t see a need to pay much attention to the river as the river was always there.  Sure, over the years the silt and sand had accumulated.  The river was shallower than it had been but it was also broader, so it had just as much water as ever.  They thought the first village’s efforts to keep their fork of the river narrow and deep a silly waste of time.  Life was good–why invest in something that didn’t need to be done?

“But then a year of drought came.  The first village barely noticed that the rains had ceased as their river still ran strong and deep and provided all the water they needed.  But the other two villages began to see their forks of the river begin to dry up.  At first it was just a bit of bigger semi-sandy beach.  Then there were mud flats that seemed to go for hundreds of yards before there was any water.

“The drought didn’t break in the second or the third years. 

“By the end of the second year the first village had seen a noticeable decrease in the flow of their fork of the river.  Even so, they had plenty of water and had no fear that if the drought lasted another year or even two that they’d be in any real trouble.

“The people in the second and third village were in very different shape.  Their forks of the river were on the verge of drying up completely after the years of neglect. 

“The village councils of both villages finally had no choice to face the crisis. 

“Both villages talked about their options—they could sacrifice and pay the price to do the work they should have been doing all along and invest in getting their fork of the river in shape to handle the drought, they could give up and move out of the village, or they could stay and hope that the drought relented before they were driven out.

“The people of the second village debated and debated and finally decided that as much as it would hurt short-term, they had no choice but to hire someone to come and help them save their fork of the river.  The sacrifice was painful—and it wasn’t quick, but finally it began to pay off and the water began to flow, each day the flow of water seemed to increase. 

“The people in the third village decided that the cost to deal with the river was just too great to bear.  They believed that the drought would abate and they would be able to delay any repairs to the river until times were better. During the fourth year of the drought the final residents of the third village moved away, leaving their small village and most of the surrounding farms to decay.

“Unfortunately, we have several competitors who, like the first village, didn’t fritter away the good years.  They maintained a high level of training for their people even though for many, us included, it seemed a waste of time and money.  They are now reaping the rewards of that investment.  Some have even seen their sales increase during this downturn.

“We now have to decide if we’re going to be like the second village that was willing to pay the price in the short-term to rectify past neglect–or whether we’re going to hope against hope as the third village did that somehow we’ll make it through.

“It’s our choice—and our responsibility.  Where do we go from here?”

 

I’d like to say that my little story had the desired effect, Robert said.  It didn’t.  We limped along through 2009 and most of 2010.  The loses grew larger each month. 

I eventually left out of disgust. 

The company is still hanging on but is looking for someone, anyone, to purchase them.  Most of the executive group that was there for my story is gone also.

Would things have been different if we’d made the decision to ratchet up our training?  Of course I can’t say for sure, but I’m willing to bet they would be very different.  We had a good product.  We had some good salespeople.  We didn’t have the right support in terms of training and coaching to help them at a really difficult time.

Since then I’ve changed my focus, Robert ended.  My team is 100% focused on gaining and implementing skills—and every manager is required to learn how to coach their team members.  No longer will I get myself in a situation where my river is going to silt over and die.

 

I thought Robert’s story both timely and relevant to many a company right now. 

I hope if your company didn’t follow the example of the first village that you at least joined the second village in digging deep and sacrificing to dredge your river to get the saving water flowing again.  If you’re with the third village, well, good luck.

September 28, 2010

Are Your Sales Managers Sabotaging Your Sales Training?

Yesterday the CEO of a mid-size financial services company complained that no matter how carefully they designed their sales process and the accompanying training, they have been unsuccessful in establishing a consistent, long-term implementation of the process throughout the company.

Yesterday certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this lament—and it certainly won’t be the last.

There are a number of possible reasons for sales training failure from treating sales training as an event instead of an ongoing behavior change process, to salespeople who view attending sales training sessions as torture, to the company’s failure to provide follow-up coaching for the sales team.  All of these are real issues that can negate any potential success you might experience from your investment in sales training.

But there is another cause of training failure that isn’t addressed as often but can be more destructive to your company’s training efforts than any other single factor—your sales managers.

Are your sales managers reassuring their charges that, “yes, you have to go to the training, but don’t worry; just go and when you get back, sell the way you’ve always sold?”  Maybe they don’t believe in the training you’re giving and are intentionally training their team in different processes and tactics? 

If you fail to get full buy-in from your sales management team to the specific training you are presenting, you will not have comprehensive and universal implementation of the training. 

Your frontline sales managers who work with their team members have more influence on how your salespeople sell than anyone else—more than senior executives, more than middle sales management, more than the training department, more than HR, more than the expensive sales trainers you hire.

If they don’t believe, the salespeople won’t believe.  If they don’t reinforce the messages, the strategies, and the tactics, those occasional training sessions will be nothing more than expensive exercises in futility.

How do you get all of your sales managers on the same page?

Before you ever put a salesperson in a training workshop or seminar, each and every manager must have gone through the management version of the training.  Each manager must understand what the company’s comprehensive, unified sales process is and how the particular training that is scheduled fits in the big picture; what short and long-term results are to be expected; what their job is in reinforcing and coaching the training; and what criteria will be used to determine the success or failure of the training.

Most of all, each manager must believe in the process and strategy.  .

Whether the training is presented by an in-house trainer or by a professional trainer brought in from outside, each segment of training should consist of a management segment designed to gain manager buy-in and to give them the tools and knowledge they will need to coach sellers once they are back at the office and a segment for salespeople that is attended by their managers.

And although the initial cost of training in terms of both time and money will increase, the long-term result will be reduced waste of training dollars and increased sales.  That wished for unified sales process will begin to become a reality because the biggest determent to success has been turned into the biggest promoter of success.

September 21, 2010

Prospecting Lessons from Some of the Biggest, Best Known Sales Training Companies in the World: They Won’t Like What We Can Learn From Them

“My name is Paul McCord and I’m a recovering sales trainer.”

OK, I’m not to that point yet, but if the prospecting calls and emails I’m getting from some of the biggest and “best” sales training companies in the world is an indication of the effectiveness of our industry, I may be repeating that line soon.

What is one of the most basic prospecting rules that every sales trainer, sales manager, and sales book preaches (even my dogs know this one by heart)?  Never make a prospecting call without having at least minimal knowledge of the suspect you’re calling–and preferably having done thorough research on them. 

I get prospecting calls and emails all the time.  Of course I know a great percentage of salespeople and business owners aren’t adhering to this rule.

But who else isn’t adhering to it?

Well, in the last month and a half I have received one prospecting phone call and two prospecting emails from salespeople for three of the biggest, baddest, most well known sales training companies in the world.  In all three instances the salespeople were trying to sell me—yep, sales training.

The salesperson that made the phone call started the call by giving me their name, the name of their company and then asking me if I’d heard of their company.  I gave a positive response.  Next I was asked if I or anyone else in my company made sales calls.  My response was again positive.  The salesperson then asked me if we were finding the economy tough.  My response was once more positive.  So, the salesperson asked me three questions that they knew I was probably going to give a positive response to, getting me on a “yes” roll.

The next question was a problem.  After a short explanation about what the salesperson’s company does, I was asked if I and any salespeople in my company had ever had formal sales training.  At this point I informed the salesperson that McCord Training was also in the sales training industry and that I probably wasn’t a great prospect for her and her company.

Her response?  She laughed, apologized for calling, and hung up.

The two emails were similar to the phone call.  The sellers gave me background on their company, gave me an idea of how their training could increase my company’s sales, and asked me to respond with a time for the salesperson to call me.  Conveniently I was given the choice of a couple of days and times or I could suggest a better time if I wanted.

These were not untrained salespeople.  These were not sellers who were hired by some rinky-dink fly-by-night company.

Not at all.

These were salespeople from three of the biggest sales training companies in the world.  All three are sales household names.  All three are among the 10 biggest sales training companies in the world.  Two are in the top five, maybe the top three.

These are supposed to be the best of the best, at least that’s what they tell prospects.

Embarrassing for them and their companies to say the least.  Embarrassing for all of us in the sales training industry as these sellers reflect on all of us when they make these stupid mistakes.

So what lessons can we learn from these top tier sales training companies?

  1. Don’t assume your salespeople are well trained.  If the salespeople of the “top” sales training companies aren’t well enough trained to not make the most basic prospecting mistakes, can you assume your salespeople are better trained and not making these mistakes?
  2. Don’t assume your salespeople are living their training.  Even if your salespeople have been thoroughly trained, don’t assume they are living it.
  3. How your salespeople sell reflects directly on your company.  These salespeople didn’t just embarrass themselves, they embarrassed their company—and not just because of the industry the company is in.  When your salespeople demonstrate ignorance, laziness, or any other negative trait, prospects draw the same conclusions about the company they represent.
  4. Once is not enough.  Your salespeople need consistent training reinforcement and follow-up.  A single training session isn’t going to change the behavior of your sales team.  Training must be on going.  It must be consistently reinforced and coached. 

Yes, all of this means you have to invest real time and real dollars in training your sales team—but you just got a free lesson from three of the world’s top sales training companies.

September 14, 2010

Making the Sales World a Little Smaller and a Lot More Valuable

Sales 2.0 … Networking online … Standing out …  Crystal clear messaging … global business.  So many ways to reach out to prospects and clients and so many pitfalls.  So little time to assimilate the very best practices.

What’s a busy sales professional to do?

Glad you asked. Just this week a dynamic, exciting new (and free) international sales community launched. I’m participating in Top Sales World because it provides the very best support from people like me who are out to help busy people like you achieve greater selling results while deriving greater reward and satisfaction from your own efforts.

We all want to get better what we do. Top Sales World brings together top gurus in the United States and other countries who provide unparalleled information in the form of how-to-guides, one-on-one advice, webinars, articles and much more. Get help on a specific problem. Learn to focus on your goals on a daily basis. See the latest trends. Read about the latest Sales AllStar or Featured Contributor.

Top Sales World evolved from Top Sales Experts and incorporates regular webinars  on everything from “Sales 2.0 and Selling to Big Companies” to “How the Most Successful Companies Develop Their Sales Teams” to “Turn Your Connections into Cash” and “Elevator Speeches that Sing” and “The Dynamic Value Proposition.”

Each event gives you top information and tips you can put to use immediately. Download each presentation  from Top Sales World when it suits your timeframe.

Better yet, new, live webinars are taking place all the time.  On Sept. 16, join Wendy Weiss, the Queen of Cold Calling, for “Cold Calling 2010: What’s Working Today?” Dr. Tony Alessandra presents on “What Exactly is Collaborative Selling” on Sept. 21.  A panel of experts shares “How to Stride into the Final Quarter and Finish the Year Strongly” on Sept. 28.

What’s not to like? I strongly recommend you visit Top Sales World and see for yourself.

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