Sales and Sales Management Blog

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.

January 8, 2015

3 Steps to Getting High Quality Referrals From Your Clients

Are you one of the majority of sellers that isn’t converting the majority of the referrals you get because the “referral” is nothing more than the name and phone number of someone who isn’t a real prospect?  Are you one of the sellers who have simply given up even asking for referrals because they have proven to be more of a waste of time than anything else?   Chances are you said yes because that’s the experience of most sellers–weak or worthless “referrals” that cost more time and waste more energy than they’re worth.  Oh, sure, we all have some clients that will give us referrals all day long.  Just ask and they’ll give you name after name.  Other clients, the majority, aren’t nearly as generous with their referrals.

The biggest problem in both cases is so often the referral we get isn’t much better than pointing at a name in the phonebook at random.

How can you guarantee that you get great referrals?  Simple.  Make sure the client gives you a great referral by creating the referral for them to give you, rather than relying on them coming up with a quality referral to give.

The reality is that clients really don’t know who we’re looking for and most of them just don’t have a real incentive to invest the time and energy to come up with a great referral.

But we know who is a great referral for us.  And certainly we’re willing to invest the time and energy to find a great referral (if we’re not, we have some real serious issues to deal with).

Since we’re the one with the need; and we’re the one with the desire; and we’re the one who knows who makes a good referral for us, why would we rely on anyone else other than our self to come up with the referral?

So how can we create a great referral for our client to give us?

Here are three steps to guaranteeing you get great referrals from your clients:

  1. Get Your Client On-board to Give Referrals.  Most sellers wait until after the sale has been completed before they bring up the idea of referrals.  Bad idea.

    Most clients need time to get comfortable with the idea of giving referrals, so bring up referrals early in the relationship.  Don’t ask for referrals; just let your client know that your business is built on referrals and then drop referral seeds as the sale progresses.  Since your prospects and clients aren’t stupid, if they hear you mention referrals often in a casual manner, they’ll get the impression referrals are important to you and they will be expecting you to ask for them at some point.

  2. Find Out Who Your Client Knows.  We’ve already established that in order to get great referrals you have to do the work for your client, so do it by discovering during the course of the relationship who they know that you know you want to be referred to.How do you find out? Through small-talk (who do they mention in conversation they know); paying attention to what’s in their environment (pictures, association directories, membership plaques, and such); their background (where did they work previously); their work (what vendors and suppliers do they interact with).  Your job is to be a detective and to uncover the relationships they have with people or companies that you know you want to be referred to.  The more you uncover the more quality referrals you uncover.
  3. Don’t Ask for Referrals, Ask for THE Introduction.  Now when it comes time to ask for referrals, you’re not going to be like every other seller and ask a weak question such as, “Donna, do you happen to know anyone else (or another company) that might be able to use my products or services (or that I can help—or any other such weak question)?”

    Instead you’re going to ask for a direct introduction to someone you know is a great prospect for you and that you have reason to believe your client knows:  “Donna, I’ve been trying to connect with David Jones for some time without success.  You mentioned that you’ve worked with David for several years, would you be comfortable introducing me to him?”  You know she knows David.  You have reason to believe David is a good prospect for you.  Don’t waste Donna’s time with that weak general referral question; ask to get connected to a person you know she knows that you know you want to connect with.

Referrals can be the foundation of your sales business if you just develop the skills necessary to be a referral-based salesperson.  If Donna knows three people or companies you know you want to be referred to and you can get introductions to them from her, how much time and energy have you saved getting those three introductions through referrals instead of cold calling or sending out direct mail or hoping to bump into them at a networking event?

Forget what you’ve been taught about asking for referrals.  Referral generation is a PROACTIVE process where you do the work, not your client.  Your client doesn’t have the motivation, you do.  They don’t have the understanding of who makes a good referral like you do.  Your client doesn’t have the time to invest in figuring out a good referral like you do.  It’s your business, not theirs.

January 7, 2015

5 Critical Steps to Regain Your Team’s Respect

Filed under: business,management,Sales Management,team development — Paul McCord @ 1:03 pm
Tags: ,

Everyday there are tens of thousands of sales leaders trying to manage a sales team that has lost respect for them—and many, possibly most, don’t even realize that they’ve lost control of their team.

Are you faced with any of these issues?

1. Team members are seldom on time and come and go as they please.  Are your sellers straggling into the office and scheduled meetings because of a lax office atmosphere—or because they simply have no respect for you and your ability to control them?

2. Your interactions with team members are usually monologues.  Are team members listening to you intently and respectfully and giving their opinion freely—or are they simply waiting for you to shut up so you’ll go away and they can go back to ignoring you?

3. Your team members try to talk over you.  Are they excited and want to get their ideas out—or do they think you have nothing worth listening to and don’t respect your opinion?

4. Your requests are ignored or assignments are completed in a half-hearted fashion.  Are they so busy with selling and taking care of their customers that they just didn’t have time to get to the assignment—or do they think the assignment was a joke not worth their time and effort, and besides, you’re not going to do anything about it anyway?

It’s easy for managers to ignore the above symptoms of disrespect.  In fact, it is far easier and a lot more comfortable to ignore them than to address them.

But if you’re in a position where you have a team that does not respect you, either you or they are short timers.  A manager—and the company they work for—cannot last long once they’ve lost the respect of their team.

But once the team’s respect has been lost, is it possible to regain it?

I’ve spoken to many management experts who have argued that once lost, respect is impossible to regain and the only solution is new management.

And for the most part I agree.  However, I have seen several situations where management redemption did occur.  In virtually every case, the manager took the following five steps:

  1. Personal acknowledgement.  The manager recognized the loss of respect and committed themselves to aggressively addressing and correcting the issue.
  2. Confessing to the team.  The manager confessed to each member of the team (either in a group meeting or during individual meetings with team members) that they had lost their commitment and had failed the team and have recommitted themselves to serving the team without reservation.
  3. Establishing new ground rulesand adhering to them.  The manager sets out a new set of rules that govern both the team’s and the manager’s actions along with the consequences for breaking those rules.  Discipline is not only needed, it must be demonstrated.  Consequently, it is necessary that the team know what is expected from them and from the manager and that both have objective rules and guidelines that all parties are aware of and can measure one another by.
  4. Encourage discussion–and dissent.  It is imperative that an open dialogue between the manager and the team members be created and it is the manager’s obligation to set the tone and get the ball rolling.  If the manager can’t break through the ice and begin a real conversation with the team, no amount of confession and fair rules will do any good.
  5. Treat team members with respect.  Very often the team begins losing respect for their manager not simply because they view the manager as weak, but because they feel that he or she isn’t treating them with respect.  A manager cannot expect respect from the team if they aren’t showing the team members respect.  Respect, more than any other aspect of relationships, is a two-way street.  Part of earning respect is showing respect and the manager must begin the process by making sure the team members know they are respected.

The above five step process isn’t an overnight fix.  In fact, regaining respect takes time—a lot of time, weeks and months worth of time.

Yes, once the team has lost respect for their manager the most expeditious solution is replacing the manger.  But that isn’t the only solution.  If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve lost your team’s respect—or if you have a manager that for whatever reason you cannot replace and they’ve lost their team’s respect, apply the steps above and you will, given time, repair the damage and once again have the team’s respect.

August 4, 2014

Are You Deserving of the Title “Sales Leader?”

Over my three plus decades in sales I’ve seen lots and lots of sales managers.  The vast majority fall into one of these four types:

The Hall Monitor

The Hall Monitor sees their job as one of chronicling activity, taking names, dispensing discipline, focusing on procedures, thinking those are the keys to generating results—or at least to keeping their job.

Hall monitors tend to be oriented to process, are organized, and have a strong sense of discipline.  All admirable characteristics—but they’re misguided.  The Hall Monitor makes a great bureaucrat, a lousy sales manager.  He’ll make sure everyone knows their place and that procedure is followed—at the cost of morale and sales.

Although the Hall Monitor is focused on enforcing procedure on subordinates, she feels justified in fudging (lying) to upper management when completing reports.  She has no intent of letting her subordinates hold her down or put her job in jeopardy.  If numbers aren’t met, margins aren’t being held, or sales calls aren’t being made, she is fully capable of showing management why it isn’t her fault.

The Visitor

The Visitor is going places—fast.  Their current assignment of managing the sales team is in their mind temporary—and the more temporary, the better.  Their key to moving is getting some numbers to catch the eye of management.

The Visitor cares about no one other than himself and that translates into demanding sales at all costs.  Price is never an obstacle—sell it no matter what.  His message to his team members is get out and get orders and don’t come back until you got ‘em.  His implied message to the sales team is “the quicker you get the numbers, the quicker you get rid of me.”

Need help?  Need advice?  Need coaching?  Don’t ask The Visitor because frankly, he doesn’t give a damn.  If it isn’t something that’s going to help him get the next promotion and get it NOW, forget it.

Have a suggestion or advice to give?  Don’t bother because The Visitor doesn’t care—doesn’t plan on being around long enough to implement it anyway.

The one thing you can count on from The Visitor is a sales goal he is sure he can easily obliterate.  Oh, yeah, management will see those numbers destroyed, guaranteed.

The Good Buddy

The Good Buddy is everyone’s friend.  Managing is a popularity contest that he intends to win.  He’ll be a great drinking buddy, a top notch shoulder to cry on, a guy you can trust to cover for you.  He’ll make sure the office atmosphere is loose, that everyone feels welcome, that the office is a fun place to be.

Discipline?  Well, that’s not something you’ll find in his office.  An insistence on hitting quota?  Something else that isn’t a priority.  Coaching?  Nope.  Lots of back slapping and high fiving, but no coaching.  Decisions?  Don’t expect The Good Buddy to make the hard decisions because he might hurt someone’s feelings.

The Good Buddy is weak and lets his team members run the office.  Ultimately, most everyone in his office ends up unhappy.

The Super Closer

We all know the Super Closer—the guy or gal who believes they can close anyone, anytime.  They generally have a massive ego, more than likely a strong sales history, an A type personality, and little respect for the others on their sales team.  The Super Closer sees their charges as grunts who know nothing about sales and whose only job is to go out, work through the chaff to find the prospect, then call in The Super Closer and watch the master work.

The Super Closer is concerned with one thing and one thing only—today.  Get today’s numbers, Numbers, numbers, numbers.  By gosh she’s never missed a quota and she’s not going to start now.  If you suckers can’t get the business—and God knows you can’t, she’ll close it for you.  Her sales team doesn’t have to worry about anything except getting her in front of a prospect.

Planning?  Who needs it?  Reports to management?  All they care about are quotas being met and exceeded, so she’ll tell them what they want to hear and then worry about making it true.

The managers above have developed their own definition of what a manager is because:

  • They misunderstand the nature of their position.  Most companies don’t train their new sales managers.  The assumption is that good salespeople will know what needs to be done.  Consequently, most companies simply instruct new salespeople to call their manager if they have questions, maybe give them a day or two introduction to the reports and paperwork they’ll need to complete.
  • They believe that today is more important than future days.  Get today’s numbers today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.  This often comes from a demand by management—stated or unstated—that numbers be met today.  Many senior managers mouth a long-term growth philosophy while demanding numbers be made today so they get their bonus–and to hell with tomorrow (Wall Street anyone?).
  • They aren’t manager material to begin with.  A great salesperson will not necessarily be a great manager.  Often great salespeople make terrible managers.  They know what they are good at and want to continue being the sales superstar but with a management title.  Converting to be a real manager is impossible for some of these sales stars.
  • They can’t make the adjustment from being one of the group to being the leader of the group.  They want the new position but they don’t want their relationships to change.

The Sales Leader

Fortunately, there is a fifth type of sales manager—the real deal.

Currently it is common for sales managers at all levels to be called ‘Sales Leaders.’  Nice title that really doesn’t fit most managers.  A true sales leader is very different from the more typical managers we saw above.

The true sales leader:

  • Isn’t focused on today but rather is looking into and planning for the future with the intent of molding the future instead of being molded by it.
  • Is looking to coach his or her team members to stardom, not to be The Star themselves.
  • Manages through demonstration and inspiration, not intimidation or fear.
  • Is a student, open to suggestion, criticism, advice, and continual education.
  • Leads by being trustworthy and demonstrating integrity and honesty.  His/her team members may not like The Sales Leader’s decisions, but know the decisions are honest and based on what the Sales Leader believes is best for the team.
  • Is a decision maker, not afraid to make the hard decisions and to live with the consequences.

The Making of a Sales Leader

A Sales Leader doesn’t just happen, they are created, they’re formed, they’re developed.

The development starts with the selection of the new manager.  Traditionally companies have selected top producers to become the new frontline sales manager.  Sales management is viewed more as a reward for production than as a critical job in its own right.

What makes a great manager isn’t what makes a great salesperson.  The activities are very different.  The relationship building needs are different, the communication, planning, and organizational needs are different.  Unless a company is seeking a Super Closer or a Visitor, promoting a top producer may not be a wise idea.

Although the management problems start with the selection of the new manager, more important is the “training” most new managers undergo—none.

One of the most common training formats companies have is upon promoting the new manager, the new manager is given a day or two training on hiring and firing procedures, how to handle sexual harassment issues, and how fill out payroll paperwork.   From there, the new manager is told to call his or her manager if they have questions or need guidance.  After the first few questions directed to their manager, they begin to notice their phone calls aren’t returned as promptly as before, their manager’s tone of voice is a little sharper, the answers and guidance more and more abrupt.

Soon they realize they’re on their own to sink or swim as they can.

No wonder they have no idea how to be a leader.

To create a Sales Leader companies must invest in their new manager.  They must either create a multi-disciplinary, in-house management program or hire an outside company.  In addition, each new manager needs a coach—either an in-house coach or an outside professional manager coach.

Each new manager must be schooled in the skills of management, but more importantly must be guided in the roll of and skills of leadership.  Filling out paperwork, creating a sales plan, assigning territories, and resolving issues with shipping are all important, no doubt.

But far more important to the success of the company and the sales team is getting the most out of team members, developing team members who have the desire to succeed, who are willing to invest the time and effort to be the best.  These aren’t instilled by a manager; they’re brought out by a leader.

The last thing your sales team needs is a manager.  You need Sales Leaders. 

If you want Sales Leaders, do the things necessary to develop them—investing in them is investing in your company’s future success.  Refusing to invest in them is an investment in your company’s failure.

 

June 26, 2014

Why Producing Sales Managers No Longer Make Sense (If They Ever Did)

Although many companies believe they are maximizing dollars by requiring their frontline sales managers maintain and grow their own book of business, are they really getting the value they expect or are they costing themselves sales and money in the long run by trying to save a few bucks on a manager’s salary?

Let’s examine the duties that are expected from a producing sales manager as gleaned from several producing sales manager ads on CareerBuilder:
•    Recruiting and hiring salespeople–and often clerical staff
•    Training, coaching and mentoring those people
•    Resolving customer issues
•    Coordinating and working with other departments such as shipping, manufacturing, underwriting, finance, etc.
•    Monitoring the local market and competition and keeping management informed of market changes and opportunities
•    Creating and implementing a local sales and marketing plan
•    P&L responsibility for the local office or branch
•    Conduct sales and training meetings
•    Complete reports for management on a weekly, monthly and annual basis
•    Creating annual office or branch budget
•    Creating monthly and annual sales projections
•    Operating as company’s ambassador to the community by attending community events and maintaining a high visibility in the community
•    Other duties as assigned

And then the kicker:
•    Maintaining a high level of personal sales activity and personal production

The first dozen responsibilities listed above are management activities that are—or should be—critical to the growth and profitability of the company.  Most of these activities require someone with strong management, problem solving, and analytical skills.  To properly perform these activities, the individual must have a frame of reference to resolve customer issues, to develop sales and marketing plans, to maximize the return on assets, to properly analyze the local market and competition, and especially, to recruit, train and mentor salespeople.

Only the last item is a purely in-the-trenches sales activity related item.  Yet, as anyone who has been in sales understands, to meet that requirement of ‘maintain a high level of personal sales,” selling must be a full-time job.

The Requirements For The Job
Go further into the job description and you find the ‘requirements’ section, describing the background and experience this individual must have to be considered for the job.  Most typically, that description includes these items:
•    3-5 years direct industry sales experience
•    Proven high level of production, meeting or exceeding quota
•    Strong product knowledge
•    Proven industry contacts and book of business

What’s missing in the requirements for this position?  Of course, not a single word about management skills, aptitude, training or ability.

And how is this individual typically paid?  Usually some combination of base salary, commissions and overrides, or worse, overrides and commissions.

Does It Make Sense?
The above list of responsibilities was gathered from a number of job postings from a number of industries including retail, banking, insurance, securities, medical, software, chemical, consulting, and others.  Most of these job postings listed a majority of the above requirements including the personal production requirement.

Although traditional in many industries, does this combination of duties make sense?  If it does:
•    why are so many offices in these industries poorly run?
•    Why the constant harping by senior management for the offices to keep costs down?
•    Why complaints by marketing that leads aren’t being followed up?
•    Why the complaints by manufacturing and shipping that didn’t know certain things about various orders?
•    Why are commission checks so often wrong?
•    Why is the training and coaching in these companies so poor?
•    Why are so many poor hiring decisions made by the company’s sales managers?

The list could go on.

The reason of course is obvious.  The company didn’t hire a manager, they hired a salesperson to try to keep the herd in line and hopefully end up with the sales numbers the company wanted—and that sales manager is expected to make sure they do through his or her personal production.

Sales management as so often practiced today is hardly deserving of the term.  And despite the onus being placed on the sales manager by the company, the problem doesn’t lie with the sales manager.  Typically, the company got exactly what they wanted—a top salesperson willing to assume responsibility they haven’t been prepared for in exchange for a title.

Can Companies Afford to Continue This Way?
For most companies, selling is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge.  Competition is fierce, their products are most often indistinguishable from their competitor’s, their markets are becoming more fragmented, their prospects are better educated and more demanding than ever before.

Management as a sideline, although traditional in a great number of industries, is costing companies billions of dollars every year in lost opportunities, bad hires, poor local market decisions, lack of resource utilization and lost sales.

In a complex world with razor sharp competition and astute prospects who often know more than the people trying to sell to them, companies can no longer afford to use management positions as rewards for past production.  Frontline managers are increasingly becoming the focal point of a company’s success or failure.

Many companies have already begun to change their management philosophy and have eliminated the selling manager position and have replaced them with full-time, qualified, and trained managers.  To this end, they have instituted manager training and coaching programs hiring outside companies and coaches to work with their new and existing management staff.

Take Action Now
If you are in a producing manager role, hire a sales management coach to help you prepare for the realities of the changing environment you are entering.  Those items within your job description that haven’t been emphasized in the past are becoming increasingly important.

If you’re a senior manager, consider whether a producing manager is really worth the lost revenue and lost opportunities.  Your company’s selling environment isn’t going to get easier.

April 7, 2014

Book Review: Hire Right, Higher Profits by Lee Salz

Book Review: Hire Right, Higher Profits by Lee Salz

ImageShould you only hire salespeople from within your industry?

What are the key qualifications for a salesperson to be successful selling for your company?

Do you spend as much time and effort when hiring a new salesperson as you do when looking at a new investment in a potentially revenue enhancing product or service?

In his newest book, Hire Right, Higher Profits: The Executive’s Guide to Building a World-Class Sales Force (CreateSpace:  2014), Lee Salz addresses these and many other hiring questions head-on—and provides the real world guidance and answers that are so badly needed by hiring executives in today’s marketplace.

Hire Right, Higher Profits is a highly detailed examination of the hiring practices most companies employ.  From the way employment ads are written to the unrealistic qualifications the ads demand the candidate have to the slipshod interview process itself to the inadequate or non-existent onboarding after the hire, Salz unfolds the reasons so many sales hires are a bust.

From his years of practice building sales teams Salz has come to the conclusion that:

“Five percent of all salespeople will Succeed under any circumstances “Five percent of all salespeople will Fail no matter what is done for them “Ninety percent of all salespeople fall into the LIMBO group where success or failure is determined by:

     “The strength of the match between them and their sales roles     
       and     
       The sophistication of the company’s new-hire development program—to help them       
       quicky and effectively use their skills and know-how in a new environment.”

In short, Salz’s formula for sales hire success is:

          “Identify candidates with the potential to succeed in specific sales roles                  
               + Offer skill-development programs to turn potential into reality                                                       
                                                 Higher Profits”

Hire Right, Higher Profits is laser focused on helping executives implement that formula with an emphasis that the hire must be geared to the highly defined specific sales role the salesperson will fill. 

The bulk of the book takes the hiring executive through the complete hiring process from examining and understanding in detail the required and desired attributes of the new sales hire to creating the job ad to the interview process to onboarding the new salesperson.  Salz examines the pros and cons of various sales job titles, whether or not to negotiate the compensation package, the candidate background check, analyzing a resume, and virtually every other aspect of the hiring and post-hiring process. 

Hire Right, Higher Profits is a practical, actionable guide to making quality hiring decisions, decisions that will enhance profitability and dramatically lower hiring costs and mistakes.

If you have any role in the hiring process of salespeople, do yourself and your company a huge favor and pick up a copy of Hire Right, Higher Profits.

 

 

 

March 6, 2014

Guest Article: “Sales Management: 4 Steps on How to Not Get Fired!” by Ken Thoreson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 4:29 pm
Tags: , ,

4 Steps on How to Not Get Fired!”
by Ken Thoreson

On my flight to Seattle I was pondering what this week’s blog might contain; it occurred to me that in reflecting on the past year and looking forward a quick summary of a few basic actions sales leadership must take to succeed would be of value.

Step One: Build an active recruiting plan.  Most sales managers get fired for not hitting the desired sales goals, the issue is normally because they have a lack of salespeople selling their products/services!  You must know what is your average transaction value is vs your yearly or monthly sales objectives? The question you need to know is: “do you have enough salespeople on board to achieve your monthly number of required sales transactions? “ A sales manager must look out 90-120 days knowing your future potential revenue objectives and understand your manpower requirements.  Recruiting is sales leadership’s marketing campaign for sales leads. Build an ongoing program to ensure you have the right talent in place to exceed your goals.

Step Two:  Know your pipeline metrics. This is something I have written about before but it is what can bite the sales manager. You must know the accurate value of the pipeline 90-120 days out (depending upon your sales cycle). The question you must ask is: “do you have enough number of opportunities both in value and number of opportunities to achieve your upcoming monthly quota? If not, what can you do to ensure you build up the pipeline values so that you will have enough opportunities to achieve the monthly objective? It’s November, what is your February pipeline value? Do you have the necessary values to achieve February’s goals when it’s February first?

Step Three: Is your team trained?  Recently, at one of my new clients; my client, a technical team member and myself “listened in’ as two of their salespeople gave a demonstration to a major new client sales opportunity.  It became obvious to the president that the salespeople were not professional or even capable of handling the meeting. It was enlightening and a crucial step towards increasing the need for continued focus on sales training.  The sales team had been neglecting our recommendations as to improving their skill level, and now there will be an increased buy in by management and peer levels to focus on sales skills. 

  • ·              Make more sales calls  with your team,
  • ·               build in  a quarterly  salesperson skills  evaluation      process,
  • ·               increase more role playing in your sales training meetings
  • ·              Build a quarterly sales training programs 

Step Four: Improve your professional business acumen. 1) Make sure you read the local business sections in your local papers, the Wall Street Journal, business magazines/web sites,  2) read 3 business books a year and 3)  join a sales leadership  “peer group” of other sales managers to learn how others are increasing their leadership skills. This step will improve your ability to discuss the business trends of the day with prospects and your sales team, increase your stature within your management team and improve how you manage your team.

Follow these four steps and your odds of surviving the normal 18 month window that most sales leaders live under will improve.

Ken Thoreson is the president and founder of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com   Ken’s latest book is: “Recruiting a High Performance Sales Team”.

March 4, 2014

Are Your Sales Managers Sabotaging Your Company’s Sales Training Investment?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:43 am
Tags: , , ,

“We don’t spend money on outside sales training because it never seems to do much good.  In the past we’ve had training companies come in and work with our team but as soon as they leave it seems like our people are just back to doing what they were doing before.  Training is just a waste of our time and money.”

Many company leaders have the above attitude because their experience has been that the training they paid good money for didn’t change their sales team’s behavior—at least not for long.

After having that experience a couple of times it would seem rational to eliminate the outside training expense because obviously training companies can’t make the fundamental changes to people that they claim they can. 

The company leader assumes that the root of the issue lies with the training company and its inability to have a long term impact on the sales force.

But is that really the problem?

Certainly the issue could in fact lie with the company that provided the training.  But are a number of possible reasons apart from the company hired to perform the training 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.

There is another factor that is often the real cause for the failure of the training—intentional or unintentional sabotage by the sales team management.

Are your sales managers trying to take the edge off their charges having to go to training by reassuring them, “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 and are intentionally training their team members in different processes and tactics? 

Possibly some sales managers don’t want to invest the time and energy in learning new strategies and tactics themselves and consequently don’t care whether their folks adopt the training.

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.

February 4, 2014

Are Your Sales Meetings Destorying Your Sales Team and Undermining Your Authority?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

Are your weekly sales meetings building your team, your credibility, and your company’s sales or are they destroying morale, motivation, and undermining your authority?

Unfortunately most sales meeting do far more harm than good to the sales team, the sales leader, and the company.

They don’t have to.

In fact, regular (regular does not necessarily mean weekly) sales meetings can be the backbone of creating a thriving, high production sales team.

Most often, however, they are the ruination of the sales team.

Weekly sales meetings have killed more manager authority and respect than probably any other activity a manager engages in with the possible exception of the ride along.  They have also driven a great number of high performers to the competition, one of which may be my client Richard who is one of the top 5 sellers in his company’s 300 member sales force.

Sales people generally hate this weekly meandering through sales meeting hell and the accompanying glimpse into the hollow caverns of the sales management brain in stupefying inaction. 

Why?

I believe there are four primary reasons sales meetings are such a waste of time and effort:

1.   No purpose.  A great many sales meetings are held for no other reason other that it’s Monday (or Friday, or Thursday, or whatever day of the week they are normally held on).  Consequently, the meeting is destined to be a time waster.  One time wasting meeting is bad enough, but I know of some companies who have three or even five of these meetings every week (often these mulit meeting companies are seeking to keep control of their salespeople).

2.  No preparation.  Whomever is in charge of the meeting (generally the immediate manager of the assembled team) has invested not a single minute in preparing for the meeting.  As they’re sitting down for the meeting, they take out a pen and jot down two or three things to talk about.  Again, the perfect setting for a waste of time.

3.  Too many tangents.  Without having prepared for the meeting and knowing exactly what to deal with, it is easy for the manager to veer off onto tangents that ultimately have nothing to do with anything. Yet another factor that guarantees the meeting will be useless.

4.   A haven of negativity.  Especially during times like the present when business is tough, an unprepared manager tends to focus on trying to cajole numbers out of his or her team.  People are put up for ridicule in front of their peers because of poor numbers, they are forced to justify their performance, and the rest sit in silence, knowing their turn is next once the manager has finished “coaching” their current prey.   Now not only is the meeting a waste of time, it is a real morale killer too.

Great, so sales meetings suck.  Everyone already knows that.  What can managers do to make sales meetings valuable?

I’ve found four simple rules seem to work very, very well:

1.  No purpose, no meeting.  Only hold meetings when there is a REASON to hold a meeting.  That may be once a month, once every two weeks, once a week, or as needed.  The company no longer paying for coffee is not a reason for a meeting; that’s a memo.  Reviewing the pre-call planning steps is a reason for a meeting.

2.  No preparation, no meeting.  If for any reason the person managing the meeting has not had time to thoroughly prepare, the meeting is canceled.  There is no excuse for wasting the team member’s time because the manager didn’t get their job done.

3.   A sales meeting is not the place for individual coaching.  A sales meeting is a group activity.  Address the group’s needs and issues, not individual salespeople’s.  There is no excuse for denigrating anyone in front of the group or for wasting the group’s time for individual coaching.  Each team member should have coaching time scheduled outside the sales meeting.  The rule is, if a meeting degenerates into individual coaching, the team members are free to leave (note, however, that answering a specific issue a team member has with the subject matter being discussed is not individual coaching).

4.   Set a time limit, stick to it.  Salespeople need to be selling, not attending meetings.  Under normal circumstances, sales meetings should be kept to an hour or less.  Only under extraordinary circumstances should a meeting exceed an hour. 

Your sales meetings should concentrate on helping team members sell.  Reviewing market conditions; presenting new products or services; reviewing sales skills such as prospecting, making presentations, asking questions, pre-call planning, and the other aspects of selling and the sales process; role playing activities; and other core content should be the heart of the meeting. 

Seller recognition and reinforcement should also be an integral aspect of your meetings.  Leave the meeting on a high note, not a downer.

Housekeeping notes and announcements should be kept at a minimum—discarded completely and put into memos if at all possible.

Meetings are important, but too many meetings or too much wasted time turns what could be a valuable tool into a wrecking ball plowing through your team, leaving lifeless, dispirited bodies in its wake.  If your meetings are unorganized, are designed to do little more than keep control of your salespeople, or drag on incessantly, you’re killing your team, not building it.

Turn your sales meetings into real strengths, not team killers–both you and your team members will be glad you did—and within short order you’ll actually see some smiles and enthusiasm Monday morning instead of the deadwood that drags itself into the meeting room.

August 21, 2013

Guest Article: “Are You Facing Sales Fatigue?” by Ken Thoreson

Filed under: Sales Management — Paul McCord @ 12:37 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Are You Facing Sales Fatigue?
by Ken Thoreson

The past three years have been a challenge for most partner organizations. The economy has caused sales teams to face declining prospect budgets, more competitive bidding, fewer opportunities, lower incomes and general personal stress.   As someone that works with partner organizations on a daily basis we have seen all of these situations cause an increase in mental and physical fatigue. 

As partner executives, we have witnessed increased levels of stress because of managing cash flow, personnel decisions, increased costs, decreased margins and personal stress have caused the same problems to appear. As we face another year most individuals are unclear as to the future, will it either be a recovering economy or another challenging series of events?

What is the recipe for ensuring your organization exceeds its goals this year and create a culture of high performance?  From an executive’s Action Plan there are specific tactics to ensure your organization is focused, energized and mentally tough. It begins with a focus on communication and a series of actions to build belief within your sales team. Sales organizations are the critical ingredients in building a total organizations culture of expectation and success.

Executive Action Plans

Monthly Meetings: When a company launches, its first employees typically feel that they share a mission. Everyone knows everything that’s happening and what’s needed to succeed. But when the staff grows beyond about 15 people, that sense of mission-along with clearly defined expectations and common beliefs-can be difficult to maintain.  In challenging times improving communications and providing a sense of mission is an absolute requirement.

We believe that monthly employee meetings are crucial for keeping everyone engaged and informed. (Larger organizations and those with remote offices may want to opt for quarterly day-long events instead.) Such gatherings give you a chance to remind your staff about your business philosophies, plans and expectations. This is your opportunity to provide vision, positive expectations and your roadmap to “better times”.

You can also use them to recognize outstanding employees that contributed to the success of the sales organization, a client’s implementation or company operations. You may consider honoring a Most Valuable Player chosen by the sales team at each session. This will provide a sense of teamwork and sense of good business practices.

Remember to make the meetings fun as well.  Creating FUN in your organization and making people want to work hard are two objectives for leaders who understand employee motivation. Consider sponsoring a fun game, competitive contests for sales leads or even offering simple door prizes. One company meeting I attended featured a surprise visit from an Elvis impersonator, who sang several songs. It is amazing what happens when laughter occurs and the sense of “team” builds.

The real purpose: during your monthly company meetings share your vision for the next 18-24 months and your philosophy for success. This is your opportunity as a leader to build consensus and ensure you communicate your message to your team.  Stay on message, create a theme for the year, reinforce that theme with actions and provide that sense of direction to all employees.  In our sales leadership workshop we discuss the five styles of leadership, the second style is a “selling” style, at your company meetings and at other important events this style is critical. It means you will describe a problem, provide your solution and sell your employees as to why it is the course of action.

Sales Action Plans

In working with our clients, where sales are being lost or the sales team is faltering due to fatigue we often find that the underlying problem is actually an emotional one: lack of passion. Individual team members or the entire sales organization-or both-simply don’t have the combination of enthusiasm and belief that’s essential for success. Their either don’t believe in the products or the ability of the partner organization to successfully deliver quality services.

Salespeople have to be emotionally invested in their work with a burning desire to achieve. They must also believe that the company they represent is the best and the solutions or services they sell are of the highest quality. That belief must be genuine. It’s not just a marketing message, and it’s not something that they can fake. It must be real.

Many sales leaders forget this emotional side of leadership is critical and they don’t build into sales training programs belief-building activities. Or if they do, they only do so occasionally. Our experience shows that the most successful sales teams constantly undertake on-going belief-building initiatives. Examples include:

Storytelling: People from different cultures and generations pass along stories about their ancestries, traditions and lore. Companies need to take a similar approach to capturing and preserving their histories. To do so, write down customer success stories when they occur. Put together detailed descriptions of your company’s role in helping customers implement new technologies, launch or salvage important projects or earn recognition from Microsoft. Then share these stories at sales meetings and other employee events. You can also use the best stories to recruit top performers and help orient new employees. We recommend that you record these stories and play them during your monthly company meetings.

Customer Visits: Each quarter, have your entire sales team visit a client’s company that’s successfully implemented your solutions. Ask the customer’s executive to describe the impact your company has had on their business, their competitive position or to review the savings they’ve gained from your products and services. You might also invite customers to share their experiences at some of your monthly meetings.

Reference Letters: Ask your best customers for testimonials. While such letters are, of course, highly useful as tools for future sales presentations, they’re also valuable for building belief in-house. Frame the letters and display them in your lobby or sales presentation area. Have new employees read them as part of the orientation process.

In our business, it’s all too easy to get bogged down with lost sales, missed project dates and other problems. Regularly reinforcing the positives goes a long way toward keeping everyone’s belief and passion strong and moving in the right direction. These efforts will build a culture of success, a sense of mission and common teamwork and those ingredients are the recipe for a great entrée’.

 

Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. Ken provides Keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance.  Visit his blog here       

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: