Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 14, 2015

The “Prospecting” Disease

During my three decades in the sales industry I’ve worked with, met, coached, and observed thousands of sellers from a multitude of industries.  They’ve been new and experienced, inside and outside sellers, big ticket and small, specialized products and services as well as common, commodity products, some very successful and a great many barely holding their own or failing.

Some have been hail fellow well met types, others have been shy introverts.  Some pound the phones, others pound the pavement.  Some are highly attuned to technology, others can barely turn their cell phone on.  Some like to hit the office or the road early, others prefer to work late, a few do both.

But with rare exceptions they all have one thing in common—they’re busy.

They’re all doing stuff.

And a great deal of the time when you ask them what they’re doing they tell you they’re prospecting.

They’re busy trying to find business.  They’re focused on getting a contract in the door and getting paid.

Some, not the majority by any means, are very successful.  Most are not.

So the natural question is what’s the difference?  Why are a few really good at finding prospects and brining in business and most aren’t?

Turns out that most of the time the answer is really pretty simple.

The successful sellers spend their time prospecting.

The majority are simply infected with the disease of “prospecting,” that is, the illusion that what they are doing is prospecting when in reality it is nothing more than busy work to keep them from having to do the tough work of actually prospecting.

These unsuccessful sellers can show lists of several hundred names and phone numbers they have spent hours and hours researching that they have on a call list—a few dozen will have check marks beside them, even fewer will be scratched through.  They can show stacks of fliers and letters they have mailed out.  They can produce a list of networking events they have attended over the past couple of months.  They can produce a passel of emails they have sent out.  They may even have their business card pinned to every corkboard in every restaurant, laundromat, and other business that has a board to display customer’s cards.

Certainly they’ve been busy; no doubt about that.  The problem is although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been “prospecting”—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, making a phone call here and there—and increasingly spending more and more time “connecting’ with prospects via social media, tweeting and updating their facebook page and searching LinkedIn for any warm body that might be a prospect to try to connect with.  They confuse preparatory and busy work for prospecting, with the actual activity of interacting with a qualified prospect.

Although they spend a great deal of time doing busy work, they spend very little time actually prospecting.  They “feel” they are always prospecting, but in reality they are always finding ways not to prospect by spending their time preparing to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity isn’t the activity that will produce business; instead, it is the activity that makes them feel good, feel productive, allowing them to convince themselves that they are being extremely active.

We salespeople tend to focus on activity—after all, activity is what gets us in the door, gets us the business we must have in order to succeed.  But activity alone is fruitless.  Activity for activity’s sake is just as sure a way to failure as inactivity.

Prospecting isn’t preparation to prospect; it isn’t finding easy ways to feel like you’re getting your message out; and it isn’t simply being busy all of the time.  Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting and interacting with qualified prospects.

If you cold call, that means being on the phone, not getting ready to get on the phone.  If you network, it means actually being in front of and meeting prospects or garnering introductions to prospects from referral partners, not researching events or even spending time at non-qualified events where you’ll meet few, if any, prospects, or spending your time at the event hanging with friends and co-workers.

Investing time and energy in the wrong activities has killed as many sales careers as inactivity has.

As salespeople we have three very basic duties—finding and connecting with quality prospects, working with those prospects to help them satisfy needs or wants, and insuring that they are taken care of during and after the sale. 

Everything else is busy work and busy work doesn’t make a sale, doesn’t generate income, and doesn’t move us toward our sales or income goals.

Before you engage in any activity consider whether that activity is income producing or not.  If it isn’t directly producing income, does it really need to be done?  If not, move on to an activity that will directly lead to a sale.

To succeed you need to spend your time prospecting.  Getting infected with the “prospecting” disease where you “feel” you’re prospecting but in reality are finding ways to keep from having to prospect is a career killer.

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January 12, 2015

Take Action Now to Create the Success You Want this Year

Are you in control of your sales career or are you simply going with the flow hoping that you’ll end up somewhere on the plus side?

If you haven’t done so already, here are some things you need to do now to insure that this year is the year you not only meet your annual goals but that you exceed them–that, if fact, you blow them completely away.

1. Flush out all of the tail chasing “prospects” in your system.
We all have “prospects” in our pipeline that take up time and energy but that we know in our hearts will never buy. Get them out of your system now. Don’t spend any more of your precious time on them. Concentrate on real prospects not  the “hope someday.” Vow not to spend any more time chasing your tail.

2. Get organized.
Most of us spend as much or more time “organizing” each day as we do working. Take a day or two and get yourself organized and then 30 minutes each evening getting ready for the next day. Don’t waste half the year “getting ready” to sell.

3. Know who a real prospect is.
If you haven’t already defined your ideal prospect(s) in detail, do so now.  Many waste a great deal of time chasing unqualified prospects because they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves exactly who their real prospects are.

4. Focus only on real prospects.
Even many who have defined in-detail who their real prospects are find themselves chasing after those who don’t qualify.  Commit yourself to staying on track.  Defining your prospect doesn’t do any good if you allow yourself to wander.

5. Eliminate the success killing busy work.
If what you do isn’t directly involved with finding qualified prospects, making sales presentations and closing sales, or getting a sale completed its busy work.  Busy work may make you feel like you’re accomplishing something but it isn’t making you a dime. If it doesn’t make you money, don’t do it.

6. Learn to generate referrals.
Referrals are the best, most cost effective prospecting and marketing method there is. Nothing can beat referrals in terms of ROI, close ratio, and client loyalty.  Yet, few salespeople generate many quality referrals.  Less than 15% of all salespeople generate enough quality referrals to impact their business.  Learn the process that really generates a large number of high quality referrals and turn your clients into your marketing platform.

7. Create a consistent client communication campaign.
If you don’t already have a consistent communication campaign for your clients and prospects, create one now.  You should be touching each of your clients and long-term prospects 12 to 16 times a year.  Use a combination of media–calls, emails, newsletters, letters, postcards.  Make sure each of your communications brings value to your client.  The key question to ask yourself before making any contact is “does this benefit the client or only me?”  If it doesn’t benefit the client, don’t send it or don’t call. Never waste your client’s time.

You have a choice–you can either take control of your time, energy, and sales business or you can go from crisis to crisis putting out fires while desperately trying to get a sale here and another there.

Life’s a whole lot better when you’re in control than when you’re at the mercy of chance dictates.

August 6, 2014

Guest Article: “The Strengths of Sales Introverts,” by Alen Mayer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:46 pm
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The Strengths of Sales Introverts
by Alen Mayer

So introverts have game, and quite a bit of it to be exact. The advantages and strengths of sales introverts are multiple, and those who know how to draw upon such strengths have excelled greatly in the sales field as a result, many times catching critics by surprise.

Calm in the Storm

The first major strength of introverts involves composure. Often mistaken for being too reserved or shy, many introverts instead sit back to give themselves a better vantage point. They are able to then avoid getting emotionally entangled in the discussion and see all the players engaged as well as their various interests and directions. The more knowledge a person has obviously, the more he can strategize and manage the sale at an advantage.

Composure also has other side effects that work to the benefit of the introvert salesperson. Being calm and collected has the general effect of putting clients at ease rather than being tense or defensive. Too often, aggressive salespeople are either not trusted or annoying. Potential clients clam up and walk away early when they feel they are being led down a path, often switching to another provider who comes across a bit more honest and less “salesy.” The introvert, however, gets around this problem.

There is no emotional push, no aggression, no hard sell. Instead, he comes in, provides the facts, identifies the problem the consumer or client has, and then offers a viable, practical solution. By getting the discussion away from questioning a salesperson’s honesty and back to focusing on the product or service, a sale and deal is far more likely. By allowing a sales meeting to be comfortable rather than an event of heavy pressure and hard-selling, the introvert is able to land sales where the traditional salesperson would find significant resistance and often fails.

Making the Connection

Introvert salespeople put a high priority on relationship building with customers and clients. They’re not into the deal for a single sale and then off to the next one. Instead, they are far more likely to build long-term streams of revenue by working with the same customers again and again.

Introvert salespeople understand and take advantage of the fact that it was 10 times easier to work with known customers than trying to develop a new relationship with unknown leads. Instead, they leverage known contacts and client interests to keep producing new sales again and again. This is done by focusing on win-win scenarios where both the introvert and the client both realize a significant gain in the deal negotiated.

Lending an Ear

Introverts have a keen, well-trained ability at listening to people. Often, customers want to tell people what they are dealing with, explain the issue, and discuss what really matters to them. Unfortunately, many sales people already have a script they feel they need to follow to make a sale. The two don’t mix. Instead, the customer ends up being turned off because the salesperson won’t do the most simply, easy thing in selling: listening.

Introverts, on the other hand, are quite adept at letting people talk around them. They take in all the details and statements, asking questions for more information, and getting the big picture that matters to the customer versus a script. In fact, many introverts will spend more than two-thirds of the sales meeting discussion asking the questions rather than wasting time on a pitch.

Listening provides access to key information, especially details that are valuable to allowing the introvert salesperson to connect with a client personally versus in generic terms.

In short, the strengths of sales introverts named above (composure, listening, and relationship-building) allow introverts to make in-roads where many of the best traditional salespeople can’t often break through. And they do it with far less effort, time, stress and cost.

————–

Alen Mayer, Chief Sales Introvert, helps sales people who identify themselves as introverts to be successful in sales by writing articles and conducting seminars on how to maximize introvert’s sales potential.  Find more of Alen

July 28, 2014

Is Your Employer Knowingly Destroying Your Career?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:24 pm
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If you work as an outside, commissioned salesperson, think about what your employer does:

Your employer pays for:

  • virtually 100% of your training
  • virtually 100% of your marketing
  • your gas, your cell phone, your prospect and client lunches and coffee meetings

Your employer is investing hundreds of dollars per month in your career.  Yet they:

  • knowingly allow you to waste time
  • knowingly allow you to blow off work
  • knowingly allow you to go home early
  • knowingly allow you to come in late
  • knowingly allow you to stand around and complain and moan with the other salespeople in the office
  • knowingly allow you to pad your call reports
  • knowingly allowing you to perform at a level far below your potential

Why would any employer pay for all of your training and marketing and then allow you to waste that investment?  Do you really want to work for someone who cares so little about the money they are investing in you—and ultimately so little about your future?  Do you really want to work for someone who says they want you to succeed, but then knowingly allows you to do those things that lead to failure?

What kind of employer is that?

That, however, is the employer for which the majority of salespeople work.

And if you work for that employer you have no one to blame except yourself.  For despite what your W2 says, you are your employer.  As a commissioned salesperson, you don’t work for anyone other than yourself.  You are your own mini company with a single client company that you sell for today.  You are leasing yourself, your knowledge, and your skills to your client company.  And if you are establishing strong relationships with your prospects and clients, you’re also leasing them to your client.

When you revoke your lease to the company you currently sell for and take on a new client, you’ll take all of your training, all of your skills, all of your abilities with you.  They don’t stay with your current client.  And if you’ve done a good job of building relationships with your clients, you’ll take them with you also.

One hundred percent of the time, money and energy you invest in your sales business are invested in you for your benefit, not the company for which you are currently selling.  No matter your product or service–autos, real estate, financial services, consulting, telecommunications solutions, or anything else, you are your boss, your employer.  And as such, you must hold yourself accountable for your actions and the dollars you invest in you—your company.

As an employer, what kind of employer are you?  Do you demand the best from your employee?  Or, do you allow yourself to just slide through the motions of selling?  Are you seeking to get the most from the time and money you invest in your company or are you satisfied to just get by?

As an employee, are you happy with your employer?  Do think your employer demands enough from you?  Does your employer demand you work to your full potential?

Just because you receive a paycheck and a W2 doesn’t mean that you aren’t self-employed.  In reality, you sign your own paycheck.  The company you are leasing yourself to simply verifies your company’s earnings and then signs those earnings over to you.

Don’t be fooled into believing that you work for IBM, or UBS, or Century 21, or any other “employer” other than yourself.  You are your own CEO, and like any other CEO, you must demand the best from your employee.  And as an employee, if your company isn’t capable or willing to hold you accountable, maybe you need to fire your employer.

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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March 7, 2012

Your Attitude Is Showing–Is It Killing Your Sales?

Whether we like it or not, whether we want it to happen or not, whether we believe it or not, our attitude toward our job, our attitude toward our product or service, and especially our attitude toward our prospects and clients is telegraphed to our prospects and clients through our voice, our body language, and the words we choose.

And, again, whether we like it or not, our attitude has a direct and often disproportionate bearing on whether or not we close the sale

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of sellers.  I’ve seen all kinds of attitudes.  I’ve run across sellers who were genuinely honored to work with their prospects and clients, others who were true believers in their product or service, others who had a servant’s heart and were anxious to be of service to their prospects, and others who were excited to be a part of their company’s success. 

The prospects of these sellers pick up quickly on the seller’s enthusiasm and confidence.  The seller’s prospects and clients are to some extent influenced by the seller’s attitude and are more likely to have a positive view of not only the seller but also their products and services. 

On the other hand, I’ve met sellers who were only going through the motions, who looked upon their prospects and clients as nothing more than a checkbook, who hated their product, service or company, or who simply hated the very act of selling.  Almost all of these men and women knew their attitude was damaging their careers and sales efforts.  Most were too lazy or fearful to address the issues or to find more appropriate employment. 

Just as positive begets positive, negative begets negative.

But I’ve found two attitudes to be particularly destructive simply because most of the individuals who exhibit these attitudes don’t seem to understand how damaging their attitude is.  In fact, those who have one of these attitudes are convinced that their attitude is a major asset when dealing with prospects and clients.

These two attitudes are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but both are far too prevalent and both are extremely difficult to eradicate:

Fear: Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of getting fired, fear of not being able to pay the rent, fear of going back to the office empty handed are all common fears with sellers and they all send out an unmistakable beacon to the men and women these sellers try to connect with.  And that fear kills sales.

The problem with fear is that although the prospect or client picks up on the fear, they have no idea the source of the fear and can easily mistake it for something more ominous such as an attempt to lie or cheat or even an attempt to scam the buyer. 

Fear is sensed almost immediately and sends up red flags in the prospect that tells them to proceed slowly and with great caution.  Further, the seller’s fear simply reinforces the natural fear that many buyers experience when making a purchase, making it even that much more difficult for the buyer to pull the trigger and make a positive purchasing decision.

The only cure for fear is developing confidence.  Confidence comes through developing the skills and experience to be successful.  Fear is often attached to a lack of preparation, training, and coaching. 

Fortunately, fear can be overcome, but too often it is simply allowed to fester to the point the seller either moves to another career choice or the company lets them go. 

If you or one of your sellers suffers from fear, address it immediately and get them on a training and coaching path to replace their fear with a solid self-confidence.

Arrogance: Just as deadly in sales but more difficult to address is the attitude of arrogance and disrespect for the buyer. 

Arrogance comes across in many ways.  I’ve heard comments from sellers such as: “He wouldn’t take my cold call and I’m a customer of his company.  I told his secretary that he owed it to me to talk me and any other seller who called,” “I finally got an appointment with the jerk.  I’m going to be a few minutes late just to let him know I’m not so impressed that I’m going to fall all over myself just because he said yes to seeing me,”  “He thinks he knows more than I do.  He’ll pay when it comes time to sign a contract,” and hundreds of other comments that indicate the seller thinks the buyer either owes him something or that he has little respect for the buyer.

The biggest problem with arrogance is most sellers with an arrogant attitude believe that their attitude is an asset, one that exudes confidence and power.  In reality arrogance is usually covering up some other issue whether a lack of confidence, a fear, or a personality or character defect. 

I’ve seen this attitude in a great many men and women who were at one time top sellers and who are now struggling.  It seems their way of coping with their lack of success is to become boastful and arrogant.

I’ve also encountered this attitude with relatively new sellers who very quickly were very successful and bought into the idea that they were in some way special.  Their quick success just as quickly went to their hear—and often their success quickly turns into struggles as they fall back to earth.

Whatever the root cause, prospects and clients pick up on the attitude quickly and when they do, their natural defense mechanisms come up, making it almost impossible for the seller to close the sale.

Dealing with a seller suffering from arrogance is very difficult simply because it is so difficult to get them to understand they are their problem.  Most arrogant sellers have bought into the BS they spout.  They have become believers in their own trash talk.  Not that they actually believe they can outsell and outperform, but rather that they are better than those they try to sell to and they deserve the respect they try to demand from others.  Ultimately they believe the prospect owes them something.

Are they a lost cause?  Frankly, most are.  However, I’ve seen a few that with heavy coaching and a period of close management have seen the error of their ways and repented from their sin.  Unfortunately, they are the rare exception, not the rule.

If you have either of these attitudes in your sales team (and I’m willing to bet most sales leaders have at least one seller with one of these attitudes) you must deal with them immediately and directly for more than likely they won’t deal with their attitude issue on their own.  Those who are fearful won’t know how to deal with it and those who suffer from arrogance won’t have the slightest idea their attitude is a liability.

If you notice that you suffer from one of these attitude issues, get help immediately.  If you are fearful, get the training and coaching that will give you the basis for developing the confidence to overcome your fear.  If you are arrogant, get with your sales leader and develop a plan that will help your eradicate your malignant attitude before it destroys you and your career.

Connect with Paul on Twitter @paul_mccord

February 26, 2012

In Praise of Failure

Filed under: career development,success — Paul McCord @ 12:44 pm
Tags: , , ,

In today’s politically correct world the idea there’s no such thing as failure has become so popular that it’s a staple of motivational speakers; sports leagues make sure that every kid feels like a success by giving each a participation trophy; schools teach kids that they didn’t fail, they just weren’t as successful as some other students; and some companies even make sure that every employee, even the biggest screw up, gets a reward for something.

Failure has become a forbidden, four-letter word; one that some think should be purged from the English language, for failure, they believe, destroys ego and can permanently damage the fragile psyche of a kid—or salesperson.  The very word destroys lives.

As a result we have today people entering the workforce who have never failed because they’ve been told that by simply showing up and breathing they’ve succeeded.  Many of these new members of the workforce rudely discover that failure is very much a reality—but instead of taking responsibility for their failure and learning from it, they find a million reasons why it was someone or something else’s fault.

Worse, society reinforces the idea that we cannot fail; we are told it isn’t our fault, instead we are victims of circumstance beyond our control.  We didn’t fail; we were victims.

Teaching the non-existence of failure is one of the most despicable things we can do to someone, as we are setting them up to be devastated when they are eventually confronted with the reality of the consequences of their failure.

The reality is, to put a little twist on a Gordon Gekko line: Failure is Good.

Failure only becomes negative when one accepts it as an end in itself, for there is a huge difference between failure and being a failure—one teaches, the other destroys.

Only through failure can we understand and appreciate success.

Only through failure can we grow.

Only through failure can we be molded into the success we want to be.

Failure is our teacher, our disciplinarian, our coach, and our goal setter.

Although training and coaching combined with time and effort are keys to obtaining the skills needed to become successful, they are in and of themselves insufficient to create a successful person.

If we think of training and coaching as the anvil that the hammer of time and effort beats us against to shape us, the hammering would be useless without the fire of failure to heat us to the point that we can be molded into a success.

If you want to become a success, get to know failure well and gladly take responsibility for it and accept its lessons.  Forget the silly PC denial of reality that failure doesn’t exist.  Instead embrace it as a key ingredient in your current and future success.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_mccord

February 24, 2012

Guest Article: To Excel in Selling, by Jerry Acuff

Filed under: career development,sales,selling,success — Paul McCord @ 2:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

To Excel in Selling
by Jerry Acuff

To excel in selling, you need to continue to sharpen your skills, to learn more about the art of selling and to continue to hone your craft. The truth is that the vast majority of people in any organization, including sales people, do what the company tells them to do in terms of continuous learning and development. So if the company does not provide continual training or opportunities to learn more about selling, most sales people will wind up not working on how to improve.

If you don’t spend the time and effort in improving, then what will happen? Your selling skills will actually decrease over time. Skills are similar to muscles–they will atrophy if they are not exercised continually. If you are not trying to improve, to learn more and to challenge yourself, then it would be difficult if not impossible to maintain the status quo.

If you are truly interested in becoming better—at selling, at engaging your customers, at asking questions, at gaining commitment, then you need to devote time and energy to doing so. That’s probably why blogs and other sources of information are so popular. You don’t need to devote hours to studying each day. But you do need to expose yourself to what the experts are saying, what new tools are available, what researchers are learning about people, how they think and react.  Life is a challenge—there will always be more that you can learn about—and you can always improve. That’s how the top people in any industry—whether it is sports or business or entertainment, stay on top. They are not satisfied with what they have done and accomplished—but know to excel they need to continue to challenge themselves to do better.

So the question to ask yourself is, “Am I satisfied with the opportunities my company provides for advancement?” If you are, then you will likely develop no further than your colleagues that take the same courses for improvement. To truly develop and become the best in your field, stretch yourself. Take courses outside the ones offered by your company, attend seminars in your field of interest, read books and learn what knowledge the experts impart. Not only will you benefit from your learnings and additional expertise, so will your customers. And you will see the results in your sales numbers and by exceeding your sales quota.

 

Jerry Acuff, CEO and founder of Delta Point, has over twenty years of experience in speaking and consulting extensively on the issues of sales and marketing excellence. Jerry’s breadth and depth of experience and expertise has led to his position as Executive in Residence at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Jerry has been featured in numerous business magazines (Fortune, Fast Company, Selling Power, etc.) and on MSNBC. Jerry is the author of three best-selling business books: The Relationship Edge, The Relationship Edge in Business, and Stop Acting Like a Seller and Start Thinking Like a Buyer.

January 24, 2012

Guest Article: Avoiding the Activity Trap, by Jeb Brooks

Avoiding the Activity Trap
by Jeb Brooks

Many salespeople make the assumption that activity leads to results. “As long as I’m doing something,” they argue, “results will come.”

This is a mistake. It’s the best way to get stuck in the activity trap. The activity trap occurs when you begin working too hard to make the sale. Sales is much more simple than a lot of salespeople make it out to be.

Above all, your interactions must be meaningful. If all you’re doing on a call with a prospect is saying ‘hello,’ all you’ll hear is ‘hell no.’ Instead, your activities need to fall into one of these four productive buckets:

  1. They educate your prospects.
  2. They uncover essential information about your prospect.
  3. They reveal pivotal information about your solution to your prospect.
  4. They close opportunities (for the good or bad).

First, Educational activities provide information to your prospects that make them more receptive to your messaging. These kinds of activities help them understand the business impact you can have on their operation. They help them understand that you have something meaningful to say to them. Examples include:

  • Sending useful content (e.g., articles, whitepapers, etc.) to them
  • Sponsoring roundtable discussions for your prospects to meet your happy customers
  • Publishing pamphlets about your solution
  • Providing well-documented case studies to your prospects

Activities that allow you to uncover essential information about your prospects are some of the most important. The most common is the face-to-face (or phone-to-phone) meeting. These probing meetings allow you to ask meaningful questions that help (1) demonstrate your expertise in their field and (2) gather information you need to make a meaningful recommendation to them. They include:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Sales Interviews

Revealing your recommended solution to your prospect is — obviously — essential. Doing it, though, requires more than just activity. Instead, meaningful sales presentations are carefully targeted to your prospects particular situation. This can be done in any number of ways, but is dependent on effectively uncovering practical information in your probing meeting.

  • Webinars
  • Formal Presentations
  • Demonstrations
  • Tours

Finally, the most directly meaningful of all sales activities are those that close business. This is typically in some kind of interaction between a salesperson and a prospect-turned-customer. Alternatively, you might discover that a particular prospect isn’t a good fit for your solution. This, too, can be good because it allows you to move on.

If your “activity” doesn’t fall into one of those four buckets, it’s probably wasteful. Many outside reps believe that activity begets results. With one slight change, the statement becomes true:

The Right Activity Begets Meaningful Results.

Jeb Brooks is Executive Vice President of The Brooks Group, one of the world’s Top Ten Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine. He’s a sought-after commentator on sales and sales management issues, having appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. Jeb authored the second edition of the book “Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call.” He regularly writes for The Brooks Group’s popular Sales Blog <http://www.brooksgroup.com/blog>. Follow him on Twitter: @JebBrooks

January 12, 2012

Are You Too Fat and Happy to be Successful?

It may surprise you to learn that I speak to a number of sellers and sales leaders every month who although they mouth the right words, their actions say they’re fat and happy and way too contented to become successful.

What I hear most often in today’s economy, of course, is the complaint of not enough business, no one is buying, the competition is cutting prices to the bare bone or some other form of the statement that business is tough and in order to be successful you have to be sharp, aggressive and willing to put in long, tough hours.

But that’s not the only message I’m hearing.  A few times a month I’ll hear how a seller or company is doing just fine, that although business is down from before the recession, they feel they are doing better than most and they’re still making money.  From others I’ll hear that although their income is down and a new home or new car isn’t in the cards, they’re still doing OK, meaning they’re quite  evcomfortable.

I’m always curious when I hear a seller or a company express comfort and/or satisfaction with their situation when, at the same time, they’re admitting that sales are down, income or profits aren’t where they were, and they don’t expect to see a significant change in the next year or even two.

Really?

Comfortable?

Satisfied?

No sense of loss or itching desire to get back where they were?

Inevitably I find that they either have reached the peak where they have no desire to exert the energy to move beyond or they have accepted the recession as the new norm and believe that their current level of success is all they can expect in this new reality.

Seldom do I get this response from the top sellers and the top companies.  Most often this attitude is expressed by average and even below average sellers and companies, ones that were probably looking for the path of least resistance even prior to the economic downturn.

My experience from years of working with and speaking with thousands of top sellers and top companies is they are never satisfied.  And when they find themselves moving backwards—even if the cause is something out of their hands such as a major economic downturn—they fight even harder to get back to where they were and then beyond.

Once you have reached a point where you’re fat and happy, you’ve peaked; you’ve reached a point where you will not—you cannot—become more successful.

Success demands discontent with where one is at.  It requires a level of dissatisfaction and discomfort.  For top sellers and companies success is an ever elusive goal that can never be reached—and it isn’t quelled and extinguished by an outside force such as a recession.  In fact, those outside forces that seek to kill their desire to succeed only fuel their fire.

Have you reached a point where you’re comfortable and can relax knowing you’re successful?  I hope not, for if you have, you’ve probably reached your peak, and if you have, where can you go from there other than back down?

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