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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July 17, 2014

Overcoming Rejection is a Key to Success in Selling

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:07 pm
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If you sell you have to learn to deal with rejection.  It makes no difference what you sell, who you sell to, how experienced or inexperienced a seller you are, or how successful you are, the fact remains that you will hear “no” far more often than you hear “yes.”

How we handle the “no” is one of the keys to succeeding in sales. 

Depending on how you market, dealing with a “no” can be a direct, in-your-face rejection, or can be an anonymous trashing of our direct mail letter.  However, all of us must, at some point in the selling process, deal with the reality of rejection.

If you cold call, your rejection is immediate-and if your cold calling is done on the phone, can appear to be very personal.  When you call a complete stranger and they hang up on you or rudely tell you to get lost, the tendency is to take that as personal rejection.  The salesperson that has sent out a thousand direct mail letters actually suffers the same rejection but is protected by not knowing the recipient did not even look at the mail piece that they worked so hard to perfect.  In actuality, the rejection is the same–the individual is rejecting your offer, not you.  But one salesperson must hear in a loud, clear click his rejection, while the other never hears the soft drop of the letter into the trash.

Worse, once you get the opportunity to get in front of a prospect, the “no’s” continue to come.  You make your presentation.  You get your no.  You answer the prospect’s objections–and you get your no.  You drive home your close–and you get your no.  Repeatedly, at times, it seems that no is the only word people know.

Then, finally, you get a qualified yes.  The prospect agrees to purchase IF you can do this or that, usually something out of the ordinary.  YES!  Finally, someone has his checkbook out and is ready to go, all you need is a little help from your sales manager.  And, then, it happens again.  Your sales manager says NO.  Sometimes you feel that you not only have to fight prospects, but your company also.

You managed to get your manager on board?  Great.  Now all you have to do is get the warehouse to agree to nudge a delivery in a little earlier than the calendar allows.  And, again, no.

Do the “no’s” ever stop?  No.

Of course, there are the yes’s–and that is what keeps us going, striving to get to that occasional yes.  However, all of those “no’s” can stop us dead in our tracks if we allow them.

How we handle the “no’s” is the key to how we get to the “yes’s.”

Attitude is one of the great limiters of salespeople.  People have a tendency to anticipate outcomes and many times that anticipation has an influence on the actual outcome.  If you approach a task with a defeatist attitude, there is a good chance that you will fail.  If you approach the same task with an attitude of success, there is a good chance you will succeed.  Why?  Several reasons, but two are of importance to our discussion.

First,if we assume we will fail, we will not give our best effort.  Why should we?  We already know the outcome before we even try to tackle the problem.  After all, we are just wasting our time.

Secondly,our prospect can read the defeatism in our voice and body language.  Moreover, if we do not believe in what we are saying, how in the world can we expect a prospect to believe it?

Consequently, in order to be successful, we must be able to take the rejection we experience and deal with it in a positive manner.  We have to find a way to eliminate the residual negative feelings we have from the rejection that seems to be all around us.

Advice for handling rejection has generally centered on either understanding that each “no” gets us closer to “yes” or understanding that, since the prospect does not know us as an individual, the rejection cannot be personal but is rather a rejection of the offer we made.

Both of these are true statements.  For many of us, neither gives us much relief.

So, if the traditional methods of dealing with rejection do not seem to work very well, what can we do to rearrange our attitudes?  It seems we need to find a format that will give us the opportunity to offset the rejection with success.  We need to institute a program that will allow our brains to regroup and experience the joy and positive reinforcement of getting the yes’s that offset the “no’s.”

How can we create a method to give our brains the positive yes’s it needs to readjust after receiving a chorus of no’s?

One method that has been very successfully used by a number of salespeople is to set aside tasks during the day where they know for certain they will be successful.  You have a contract to sign with a new client?  Try to schedule it later in the day, after you have done your cold calling tour of duty for the day.  End the day on the positive note of signing a contract.  Have a couple of very strong referrals to call?  Again, make the positive calls after you have made your cold calls.  Save the best for last.

Some salespeople have found that reversing this schedule leads to more productive cold calling time.  Having just come from signing a contract or having made two very successful calls to strong referrals gives them the positive mental attitude needed to sound strong and convincing on the phone when they make their cold calls.

Better yet, try to arrange your schedule where you have two or more positive tasks to perform each day and split them up so your brain is readjusted several times during the course of the day.  The more regularly you can feed your brain positive experiences, the easier it is to deal with rejection.  Rejection becomes the exception, rather than the norm.

Other salespeople use bribery to handle their rejection.  Bribery comes in all forms and fashions.  The salesperson will assign themselves a certain number of phone calls or presentations or other tasks that they must perform and then, as a reward, they allow themselves to do something they desire to do–work on their client files, go to lunch, work on marketing materials, or some such.  Others reward themselves with new cloths or some other object.  Others will allow themselves to go home early or take a day off at some point in the future.

Other salespeople have found that detaching themselves from the rejection allows them to ignore their rejection.  These salespeople will use a number of impersonal prospecting methods, such as direct mail, email blasts, and advertising.  By not experiencing the rejection first-hand, they believe they can be more positive and successful when dealing directly with a prospect when making a full presentation.

My experience has been that methods two and three have serious drawbacks.  Let us take each in turn:

Bribing yourself can become expensive-both in terms of the rewards you give yourself, whether buying something for yourself or allowing yourself time off.  In addition, it really does not reprogram your brain.  All it really does is encourage you to get through the task as quickly as possible to get your reward.  If the reward discourages quality work during the task, it really is not a reward for doing the task, but is rather a reward for putting on the show of doing the task.

The third method–using an impersonal prospecting tool to replace direct prospect contact can also be dangerous.  There certainly is not anything intrinsically wrong with marketing via direct mail, advertising, emails, and such-as long as the object is not to avoid prospect contact.  Besides being relatively expensive, these methods of prospecting should be a supplement to your direct prospect contact, not a substitute.  Unfortunately, if your objective becomes avoiding prospect contact to insulate yourself from direct prospecting and rejection, the task of sending out direct mail pieces, sending emails, constructing ads, etc. become the goals in and of themselves.  They no longer become a format for increasing your potential pool of prospects, but rather they become the reason for your existence–you live to create the perfect direct mail piece that generates interest and sells your product or service without your involvement at all.

Arranging your schedule to allow daily activities that reinforce your positive selling activities, including prospecting. tends to be the most successful way to deal with rejection.  Certainly, if you happen to be one of the lucky few who can simply ignore the rejection you receive, I envy you.  Nevertheless, for the vast majority of us in sales, we must find a process that allows us to reformat our brains after experiencing sustained rejection.  Allowing our brains to experience success on a regular basis, particularly after having experienced rejection, seems to be the attitude adjustment mechanism that works best for the majority of us.  Try arranging your schedule to purposely take advantage of the successes you know you will experience every day.  Place them in your schedule when you know your attitude will need their positive influence and you will see a marked difference in the way you handle rejection.

June 13, 2014

Are You Failing Because You Fail to Persist?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:05 am
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Over the years I’ve spoken to thousands of sellers who want to change their behavior, their careers and their lives. There are certain traits that seem to be consistent with a great many sellers I speak with–they tend to be disorganized; the majority question their ability to perform up to the standards they have set for themselves; almost to a person they have no idea of how they intend to get where they want to go.  Almost all lack one of the most crucial traits of a mega-producer–persistence.

They try one technique or strategy a few times, and then move to the next.  They read a book, put into practice a little they have learned and when that doesn’t immediately produce results, they discard it and go on to something else.  They never allow themselves to learn, practice and develop a new skill because they aren’t immediately getting the results they want or expect.

Selling is both an art and a science.  Like anything else in life, it takes time to learn and develop new skills.  If we don’t allow ourselves the time and practice required to develop the skills required to become successful, we’ll never become successful.  The NFL, NBA, PGA, and other sporting associations are chock full of individuals who have spent their entire lives on the practice field preparing themselves for just a few minutes each week in the limelight.

Take an offensive lineman.  A guard has basically one job—keeps someone from the opposite team from having the opportunity to tackle the guy with the ball.  That’s it.  Just keep one man from tackling one other man.  Pretty simple, right?  If you have never played football or have never even seen it played and you walked onto a practice field for the first time it probably wouldn’t take more than five minutes to understand what the job of a guard is.  Heck, it wouldn’t take 30 seconds to understand the basic concept. Within an hour, you’d understand the most basic concepts of playing guard.  You’d know the stance, you’d know that you don’t move until the ball is snapped, you’d know that the guy on the other side of the ball that you are supposed to block is really, really big, and you’d know that your job on each play is only going to take 3 to 8 seconds to perform.  During the same time period you would have learned that there are different plays and that you do something a little different on each play.  Let’s assume your team has 10 basic plays.  Maybe it takes you another 2 hours to learn what it is you do on each of those 10 plays.

So, you’re ready for the game, right?  You’ve invested 3 hours.  You know your job is to keep that guy from tackling the guy on your team with who has the ball.  You know you have ten plays and you know whom to block on each of those 10 plays.  What else is there to learn?  You’re done.  Go take a shower and show up a couple of hours early on game day.

Maybe someone forgot to tell you that the other guy is going to do everything he can to keep you from blocking him.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that he won’t line up exactly where you want him on every play.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that he isn’t just going to stand there waiting for you to come block him.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that people don’t act the way you want them to act.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that what sounds easy isn’t necessarily easy.

If the average lineman in the NFL is 26 years old, and the average player has been playing football since age 7 or 8, then that guard has spent almost 20 years of his life learning to do one thing—keep one guy from tackling another guy.  That’s it.  And no matter how good he is, he still gets beat consistently.  He still misses blocking assignments.  He still has opposing players get around his blocks.  He still makes mental and physical mistakes.

Salespeople are in the same position as the guard above.  We have a simple job that requires a great deal of skill and practice.  The guard has spent his life learning not just the most basic parts of his job, but he has spent thousands of hours learning the techniques and strategies that will make him successful.  If all he needed was to learn the most basic concepts, he could pick up a book, read about what a guard does and then show up for the game.  There wouldn’t be any need to practice.  There wouldn’t be a need to hone his skills.  After all, what could be simpler than to have someone tell you to just keep that guy away from that that other guy?

But that is exactly what tens of thousands of salespeople do each and every day.  They read about a particular skill, go out and try it and it doesn’t work the way they want it to. They conclude it was all hype anyway and move on to something else.  Selling is a practiced skill, meaning persistence in practice, patience in application, and honing of abilities is necessary.

As we enter the second half of the year rededicate yourself to your personal training. Understand that what you learn must be practiced and perfected.  New skills take time to learn.  If you are perpetually moving from one sales concept to the next without having learned and practiced each, you’ll never improve your ability to perform your job.

Persistence is at the heart of perfecting any skill, sales skills are no exception.

February 27, 2014

The Single Biggest Difference Between Highly Successful Sellers and Also Rans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:43 pm
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As a seller, sales leader, business owner, and sales consultant I’ve seen and worked with thousands of sellers from dozens of industries and from all sales career stages.  I’ve seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst and all in-between.   I’ve seen sellers who failed miserably as well as those making well into the seven or even eight figures.

Consistently the single biggest difference I have seen between the successful sellers and the also rans is prospecting. 

What is so different about prospecting that one group makes a ton of sales and the rest fail or just make a living?

One group prospects, the other group simply thinks they prospect.

The successful group is getting in front of great prospects and making sales while the other group is baffled by their lack of sales success because they insist that they are ‘always prospecting.’

Almost all in the second group can produce lists of prospects , some of which they’ve called; they can show where they’ve sent out a ton of letters and emails; they can give receipts for advertising they’ve bought; they can produce filers that they’ve plastered all over town.

Most have been busy; there is little doubt about that.  The problem is that although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been doing ‘things’—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, constructing call lists–and on occasion actually making a few phone calls.  Like many salespeople, they’ve confused doing preparatory and busy work getting ready to prospect with the activity of prospecting.

Although they have spent a great deal of time doing busy work, they have spent very little time actually connecting with and getting in front of decision makers.  They think they are always prospecting, but in reality they find ways not to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity engaged in isn’t the activity that would produce business; instead, it is the activity that made them feel good, that made them feel productive, allowed them to convince themselves that they were 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.

The salespeople in the second group above believed they were highly productive because they felt productive.

Prospecting isn’t preparing to prospect; it isn’t finding easy ways to feel like you’re getting your message out; and it isn’t doing busy work.  Nor is it easy but very low return lead generation such as plastering the Wal-Mart parking lot with fliers or sending out thousands of SPAM emails.  Those may be easy, non-threatening activities, but they are also career killers.

Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting with a decision maker and that requires a physical connection.

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. 

It means connecting with quality prospects through highly targeted and personal letter and email communications, not sending out thousands of pieces of SPAM hoping that someone will read and respond. 

It means creating a highly targeted and well researched direct mail campaign, not just sending letters to a purchased list.

Yet even in the above prospecting activities, the prep and research time is NOT prospecting time and should be done only during nonproductive prospecting hours.

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 to solve real issues, 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

October 22, 2013

Guest Article: “5 Truths About Sales Success We Don’t Want to Admit,” by Dan Waldschmidt

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:12 pm
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5 Truths About Sales Success We Don’t Want to Admit
by Dan Waldschmidt

Most discussions about how to be successful in sales include the essentials of technology and process and skills.  How to leverage all three to funnel prospects into closed opportunities.

From leads to lots of revenue.

But that discussion is misleading (in fact, quite damaging) to an organization and especially to the newest members of that team.

Because it leaves out the most important elements to being successful.

It’s the personal stuff most of us don’t talk about much.  The deep, nasty secrets that we try to pretend don’t exist.

And so we tap-dance around the edges of success, flirting with the “big deal” that will probably never happen.

When we could have looked fear in the eye and grabbed hold of the success that we really want.

1. Your future is what you make it.

Nothing could be more true than this simple statement.  No one is going to help you.  No one cares about what you want for you like you do.

Deep within your soul, you have to pull yourself together and care deeply about what you want to do.  You are creating your future.  Your future is the series of decisions that you make today, tomorrow, and next week — when you get up, how much effort you put in, how honest you are with yourself, if you’re tough enough to cry because what you want for yourself moves you.

It’s an empty canvas right now.  And with the right mixture of color and passion and patience you can make something beautiful…

2. It takes massive effort to be successful.

Look around at the people watching TV and playing video games.  They are the people making excuses.  You are going to have to work harder than you have ever imagined to be successful.

Don’t let schmucks convince you that they have an easy way figured out.  Anything fast or easy is for losers.    That’s the truth.  Avoid easy like your life depends on it – because it does.  Start talking to yourself now.  Start telling yourself that you are going to work until your eyes bleed and then you are going to keep clawing your way toward your goal until your fingernails tear off.

Nothing can stop you if you won’t be stopped…

3. Your attitude is your most important treasure.

The “5 inches between your ears” is what determines how amazing you become.  You need to feed your brain.  Who cares about college.  If you go, go. If not, spend the rest of your life with a chip on your shoulder learning everything you can get your hands on.

Stop pretending you have it all figured out.  Ask for help.  Your attitude determines our outlook.  Is the sun shining through the rain or did you only notice the showers?  And that matters because you’re going to get rained on — not just your parade, but the rehearsal, and the after-party.  Someone somewhere will be in charge of making fun of what you are trying to do.

Your attitude is body armor for your destiny…  Wear it with a smile.

4. Ignore the Crowd.  Be a Maverick.

Conventional wisdom is the banner cry for those who demand mediocrity.  You’ll hear things like -” that’s what we’ve always done” or “that’s how it has to be”.  And the reality is that the crowd is always wrong.  ALWAYS.  They may be louder than you right now.  They may look meaner.  But the crowd lacks something that you can deliver.  They need a leader.

Behind the chest-thumping are persons — weak, pained persons.  And so because they lack the stomach to stand on there own, they look for acceptance.  They join the ranks of the “almost did something amazing” and bitterly shout for you to join them.

And you’ll never know that in spite of the rants and jeers, it’s them who respect you for your bravery.

5. Fail boldly.

Mortgage your house, sell your car, live on rice and beans  – in pursuit of your goals.  Don’t half-ass it.  Put all the chips in.

What’s the worst that can happen to you?  You’re not going to die.  Heck, you might start living.  So what if life kicks the crap out of you.  Stand back up.

You won’t  amount to much in life without extraordinary failures.  You’ll fail at love.  You’ll fail at making money.  You’ll fail at a million different things.  But failure isn’t an event, it’s just a step closer to success.

Were you a failure as a baby because you couldn’t say “Dada” fast enough?  Hardly — you were trying with all the resources at your disposal to get out the words.  And trying eventually turned into success.  That’s what trying is all about.  And that’s you can never stop trying.

Success.

Maybe it’s time we talked about the real secrets behind sales success.

Maybe it’s time we started “being” better people instead of chasing the next “South Beach” sales process.

Dan Waldschmidt is President of Waldschmidt Partners, an international business strategy company, and the brains behind his highly popular Edgy Conversations blog.

September 24, 2013

Lola’s Lesson in Overcoming Mental Roadblocks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:32 am
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Like a great many people, Lola cannot do some of the things she’d like to do, and that puts great limits on her life. Sometimes she can’t go into the hall.  Sometimes she can’t go through the door to the backyard.  Sometimes she can’t lie on the couch.  Sometimes she can’t eat certain foods.

There are just so many things she can’t do.

Not because she is incapable of doing them, but because she has made up rules that tell her that she can’t do this or go there or eat that.

I’ve spent years counseling sellers and sales leaders about how they put roadblocks in front of themselves that prevent them from achieving their goals.  Many of these men and women learn to see and overcome these self imposed obstacles while others don’t—usually because they don’t believe they have consciously or unconsciously prevented themselves from achieving a goal or doing a task.  Often they belive that something external must be hindering them since no rational being would prevent themselves from doing something they clearly want to do.

For several years I’ve looked for clear examples of how self-limiting beliefs work.  I’ve certainly seen situations where once someone has recognized a self-limiting belief they have eliminated it, but even in these situations the example isn’t crystal clear—there is some other possible explanation.

And then along came Lola.  She is the finest example of self-limiting beliefs I’ve ever seen—primarily because she has so many so often that they scream for attention.

Lola is a big, beautiful, healthy Golden Retriever.  A really sweet and extremely polite dog.  She won’t enter a room unless invited; she won’t eat her dinner until everyone is seated at the dinner table even though her bowl is in the den (within sight of the dinner table); and she loves for me to get in the floor and wrestle with her and she never fails to try to nurse my bleeding wounds after our wrestling match (she like to play rough).

But she also is constantly limiting what she can do by creating her own set of rules.  Oddly enough her rules never allow her to do things–they always restrict her from doing things.

One day she will decide she isn’t allowed to go into the foyer and from then on she will refuse to go in—you can’t even drag her in.

The next week it might be that she decides she is no longer allowed to have chicken jerky treats which she loves, so while the other dogs are eating theirs, her’s sits on the floor at her feet until one of the other dogs comes and takes it.

Another day she will decide that she isn’t allowed to go down the steps from the top to the bottom level in the backyard, so she’ll avoid the steps and jump up and down from the brick retaining wall.

At one time she couldn’t get into her bed—she decided she couldn’t step up the 10 inches or so to get into it.  She could jump into the car with no problem, she could jump up and down the retaining wall in the back yard without a problem, she could jump any place she wanted, but she couldn’t get up 10 inches to get in bed.

She is, of course, capable of doing all of these things but she has convinced herself that she either can’t or isn’t allowed to do them.

The power of her belief is so strong it overcomes her desire to eat her chicken treat or go into the foyer to greet someone who has come through the front door or do whatever she has determined is no longer allowed or she is no longer capable of doing.

In all of these instances she is easily capable of overcoming her limiting belief, and fortunately in most instances she does—sometimes it only takes a few days, other times it may take weeks or even months.

You may be thinking that this nutty dog seriously needs to see a dog shrink.  Maybe she does—but she is no different than us humans, especially most sellers and sales leaders.

We do exactly the same thing Lola does, the only difference is we typically are a bit more sophisticated in the roadblocks we put in our path.

And we overcome our self inflicted roadblocks in the same way Lola does—through learning that the roadblock really doesn’t exist.

I don’t know what Lola’s internal discussion with herself is like but I know that Debbie and I have to do a lot of coaxing and giving her a lot of reassurance in order to get her to enter a room she has determined is off limits or to eat a treat she has decided she is no longer allowed to eat.

The good news is we don’t have to have someone coax us and shower us with reassurance to overcome our roadblocks because we can do it ourselves through positive internal discussion.  And just as eventually our coaxing and reassurance works with Lola, our internal coaxing and reassurance will work with us to overcome our limiting beliefs.

If you are one of the sellers or sales leaders who disregard the power you have to both create and eliminate roadblocks, I’d encourage you to take a lesson from Lola—those self-created mental roadblocks are real.  And just as real is your ability to eliminate them—it’s all in your head, all you gotta do is use it.

Please connect with me:

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April 11, 2013

Fear and the Choice to Fail or Succeed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:05 pm
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This past week I acquired a new coaching client.  Nothing unusual about that–except this client, like many in the securities industry, finds himself in the position of having 120 days to develop a practice capable of sustaining his family—or he is out of the industry.  He just finished his 13 weeks of training, passed his series 7 and 63 exams, and is now on a four-month do or die schedule.

I have the opportunity to speak with thousands of sales people from dozens and dozens of industries.  Depending on their industry, their “life support” (their initial guarantee, draw or salary) to help them get started may have been as long as a couple of years—or as short as, well, none at all.  Almost without exception, each had to work their way through their initial start-up stage with the stress and fear not only of failure but of potential financial disaster if they failed since many had to dip into savings in order to meet their basic obligations, not to mention having funds to help them market themselves.  My newest coaching client is just starting his ramp-up period—and he is fully aware of just how short four months is.

For most of us, the fear of failure is a strong motivator.  No one likes to fail, no matter what they are trying to accomplish.  A salaried employee wants to succeed at their job.  An hourly employee wants to succeed at their job as well.  However, both the salaried and hourly employee knows that they have the security of a future income—even if they simply do the minimum to retain their job.  For us in sales, the minimum required to simply retain our positions is producing at least enough income to live.  Whereas the salaried or hourly employee is given tasks and all of the means to accomplish those tasks and is then rewarded with a set income, we salespeople are given a task, many times without the means to accomplish it, and then must create our own reward—be it large, small, or, God forbid, non-existent.

Not only do we have the fear of failure but our failure will have life altering consequences for numerous people.  Our fear of failure goes well beyond the personal disappointment, embarrassment, and depression of failing at a task. 

 Our failure literally puts our family in jeopardy. 

Our failure means debt collector calls, reposed autos, foreclosed homes, and no food on the table.

In addition, often, like my new client, we have a very short period of time to either succeed or fail.  Time is an ever present enemy.  We hear the clock ticking—even in our sleep.  We wake up to one more day gone, one more day closer to the ultimate consequences of our actions.

Yet, that ticking of the clock can be either our chief motivator—or the cause of our paralyses.  For most salespeople, time is a dominate factor in our actions.  We either find the clock a massive kick in the pants that moves us—forces us— forward and we find the strength, creativity, and determination to succeed; or we become mesmerized by the metronomic ticking, incapable of productive movement as we watch the hands of the clock inexorably move toward our final hour as a salesperson. 

Even after we get over the hump and begin to establish a consistent monthly commission income, the clock ticks away.  A slump, a slowing economy, an unexpected illness, and a hundred other factors can catapult us back to the edge of the precipice of joblessness and financial crisis. 

As a salesperson, we must prove ourselves each month, each week, each day, each hour.  The clock is unforgiving.  That mortgage is due on the first of each month no matter what your previous month’s sales were like.  The bank expects their car payment, utilities must be paid, food must be bought. 

How do you beat this relentless, heartless enemy?  The simple answer, though massively difficult for many, is action.  Selling is a high energy, fast moving sport, more akin to jai-alai than baseball or football; it requires a tremendous amount of concentration, dedication, and mental and physical activity. 

A more accurate and precise answer is that it is through well thought-out, highly targeted action.  Many salespeople mistake simple action for progress.  Action, though crucial, is hardly enough. 

Undisciplined, random action contributes to our failure just as surely as inaction does.

What is targeted, disciplined action?  Targeted, disciplined action is action that directly contributes to putting prospects in our pipeline and clients in our database.  In simple terms–prospecting, making sales presentations, signing contracts, and handling client issues.  Everything else—all of the designing of fliers, organizing of files, making of lists, reading and studying product brochures, and all of the other “stuff” we do, may directly result in our failure.

Not that these other things aren’t important–they are;  but they are simply secondary to our primary mission, and they don’t contribute to our success in a meaningful manner if performed during selling hours.  If engaged in during selling hours, these non-income producing activities hinder, rather than aid, our production.  These non-essential activities should be set aside and performed only when some direct selling activity isn’t possible.

In order to free ourselves for the activity of selling, we must have a plan in place that will allow us to spend our time and energy performing our four primary activities.  This means using our non-selling hours to formulate our future moves.  Instead of shuffling through stacks of leads or searching the internet for our next call as we sit at our desk “prospecting,” these activities should have been preformed the evening before so our prospecting time is really spent prospecting, not doing prospecting research. 

Instead of gathering our data sheets in preparation for making calls, they should have been gathered and put in a logical order during our non-selling time. 

Instead of discussing marketing methods with the new salesperson in the next cubicle, we should have phone in one hand and be dialing with the other.

It’s your money you’re leaving on the table.  If you don’t get it, someone else will.  If you wile away your time and choose to fail, you’re directly contributing to someone else’s success. 

Success is a choice. 

It’s a simple choice that takes great disciple and effort, but still a choice.  A tremendous number of highly talented people fail in sales every year—every month, in fact.  They simply choose to fail by making the wrong time choices.  They allow the clock to win.  On the other hand, many with little talent succeed simply because they were unwilling to fail.

August 31, 2012

Guest Article: “Sales Force (Mis)Alignment,” by Tibor Shanto

Sales Force (Mis)Alignment
by Tibor Shanto

By now everyone is aware of the increasing talk of the need for alignment between marketing and sales, with some organizations realizing that it is healthier to look at the entire Client Life Cycle as one function rather than two. Some organization have acted on their commitment by creating the role of Chief Revenue Officer, having both functions coalesce behind a singular purpose, function and execution.

This indeed is a step forward as it aligns and consolidates the organization’s resource to better serve the most important element in selling, the customer. While it may seem basic and fundamental to mention the buyer, but they, the customer, are often absent from the discussion, and are instead represented by their common proxy, revenue. But revenue does not act on its own, it is a by product of a decision made by a buyer, which is why the key alignment many organizations should put greater focus on is aligning their sales people with the buyer, not just marketing. A key component of this alignment is ensuring you have the right assets and resources deployed at the specific and right buyer groups.

First let’s define the buyer groups in question, to keep it simple and familiar, lets divide them in to three common groups:

Status Quo – this group is content with their current situation, this is not to say that they are doing what is optimal, just that they are content with their current state. What some have called happy now, and not looking for alternatives, or enhancements to what they have in place. Many sales professionals you talk to call this group complacent, which is a nice way to express their frustration at their inability to engage with this group. Based on which surveys or studies you look at this group makes up about 65% – 75% of the B2B buyer population, let’s keep things simple for the rest of this piece and call it 70%

Passive – The key differentiator between this group and the Status Quo is that while they are not actively looking for alternatives to the way they are doing things, they have either acknowledged to themselves, or are beginning to see that they cannot be content with the current situation for long. This is why they are labelled Passive; to continue the definition from the above point, they are no longer 100% happy or content, but are not actively looking; they are open to suggestion, but on they are not ready to act yet. Again, based on various sources, this group represent roughly 15% of B2B buyers.

Active – The most straight forward group for most in sales, these people are actively looking for alternatives to their current situation, some have called this group as “in the market”. Not happy, and actively looking for alternatives. Every sales person’s dream, so long as they haven’t made up their mind on a provider, and are just using you as “column fodder”. This group makes up the remaining 15% of B2B buyers.

What you have is 70% of B2B buyers are cocooned in their current reality, not looking, not thinking of looking, and ready to torpedo any sales person looking to engage with them using conventional means, and if nothing else, most sales people are conventional. Then there is 30% that are in various states of readiness, while not all have the big neon light over the door saying “ready to talk”, they are all open to a meaningful discussion with knowledgeable sales people using conventional means of engaging and selling.

Now let’s look at sales people based on attributes and capabilities, they too can be placed in three general groups.

Demand Gatherers – as the name implies, these people do best with Active buyers, buyers who have declared their desire to engage and buy. While we can dissect this, the reality is that for the most part in a B2B environment these are order takers. They may be good at managing relationships, and safeguard existing revenue, but when it comes to new revenue, the buyer practically has to throw it at them. I am not being condescending here; time and time again in workshops these people will use the expression “when I can get the buyer to throw me a bone.”

Leverage Demand – these are the reps that can recognize those who are Passive buyers, they understand the signs of someone who is not looking, but not longer fully believes in the solution in place now. They are great at managing and growing accounts beyond what the buyer will throw at them. But, on their own will not or cannot engage with those buyers that make up the Status Quo group.

Demand Creators – This are the traditional hunter, the money players, the ones able to stir and agitate the right way and in the right measures to create demand and opportunities in buyers that Gatherers and those who Leverage Demand, will miss, overlook, and in the process concede the potential revenue to your competitors. Think of these people, as the sellers who know how to be the irritating grain of sand that becomes a pearl.

Here is the challenge, most sales forces are composed primarily of Gatherers and those who Leverage Demand, and few if any at times of Demand Creators. While I am sure the number is not exact, but when you talk to many sales VP’s, they will tell you without much shame, that their teams conform to the 80/20 rule, 80% those who Leverage and Gather; 20% Creators.    

Almost the exact opposite to the makeup of the buyer group. Can there be a more glaring, and costly example of misalignment, misspent and miss-focused assets and resources.

Most of your resources and efforts aimed at the smallest part of the market, and only 20% aimed at the largest buyer group. Add to that, much of the alignment between marketing and sales is focused on the Passive and Active groups. Makes you wonder how much opportunity is being abdicated to those competitors who have realised that you can with the right people, resources and message Create great success with that 70% of the market that 80% of your sales force will ignore or not be equipped to exploit.

It is always easier moving the small things around and harder to take action on the BIG and IMPORTANT things, especially when it involves changing personnel. Change that involves your people can come in one of two forms, you can either change the skills and habits of the people you have on board; or change those you have on board.

Let’s look at the latter, many of the same leaders who tell you that 80% of their team are either Gatherers or those who Leverage, will in the same breath tell you that 80% of their revenue is generated by the 20% Creators. What that tells me is that they could fire half their team, and realize great savings without tangible negative impact on revenue or client satisfaction. In fact, some will tell you that those two measures will improve when you get rid of the fat. An early indicator of this is the number of companies who have succeeded in migrating revenue from outside sales teams to inside sales team. They often experience a rise in coverage, revenues, and margins. In addition, these same organizations will be the first to realign their assets and resources and take more of your revenue. Mostly because there are more cost effective and efficient ways to ensure client satisfaction, and since the 80% are for the most part taking orders from demand generated by marketing, there is a savings to be had.

Changing the skills and habits is also difficult, both in terms of effort required, and costs; and in reality will likely involve in some change of people, especially among front line managers. Changing habits is an evolving process, and in these days of short-term expectations, it seems many sales organization are willing to live with the pain of underperformance vs. the pain of changing team members.

In some cases, it is less about reducing the size of the sales force, and more about the right talent not being available to match the market. Many have difficulty finding Creators, while there is an abundance of Gatherers and those who Leverage demand, usually at a lower investment than the Creators. Which is why in the end, it is more likely that you will have to both reduce the number of also-rans, and invest in developing Creators internally. This takes time and effort, but not more than dealing with the drag on the process the current reality creates.

One concern many leaders raise is what happens “if I train them and they leave?” Two answers, the first borrowed from a sales leader I met at a conference, whhe asked by his boss, he responded: “what happens if you don’t train them, and they stay?” The other is that A type Creators, know a good thing when they see it, that is what makes them successful, they want to be where they can win, which is exactly the environment you would be creating.

As stated at the start, it is about alignment. Aligning sales and marketing is a good thing, should be encouraged and continued. But without aligning the right sellers with the right type of buyer, much of the effort in aligning internal resources will be limited and diminished. In many ways it is trading in ongoing pain, for short term upheaval – but – long –term gain.

 

 

Tibor Shanto – Principal – Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., is a recognized speaker, author of award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, and sought after trainer; his work has appeared in numerous publications and leading websites. You can read our blog, The Pipeline with new material three times a week.

June 11, 2012

Three Principles by Which to Judge Your Sales Process

Filed under: sales,Sales Process,selling,success — Paul McCord @ 12:38 pm
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Whether you are an individual seller or the leader of a sales team, when was the last time you examined your sales process?  I don’t mean the last time you glanced at it.  Rather, when was the last time you took a long, critical look at it and all of its various parts?

For most of us, it is critical that we have a defined, workable, effective sales process.

And for a great many of us our process has morphed into something that is far more complex and intricate that it need be—and when our process gets out of hand, we begin losing sales because we burden ourselves with needless activity and more importantly, we burden our prospects with needless, time wasting activity.

I encourage you to take some time over the next few days and examine your process in detail.  And when you do, ask yourself lots of questions such as:

  • How many steps does your process have? 
  • How complex is it?
  •  How difficult is it to learn? 
  • How difficult is it to implement? 
  • Who is required to do the majority of work?  You?  Your Prospect?  Someone else?
  • How difficult is it for your prospects to follow?  Do they really know what to expect next?  Is it a process they are likely familiar and comfortable with?
  • How time consuming is it for you?
  •  How time consuming is it for your prospect?
  • Is the process flexible enough that you can adjust on the fly or is the flexibility limited or even nonexistent?
  • Is it a process that is common in your industry?
  • How does your process compare to the process used by your most successful competitors?
  • Where is the fat in your process that can be cut out?  If you had to sharpen your process, where would be the most logical place to start?
  • Where in your process do you seem to experience the most fallout by prospects?  What happens—or doesn’t happen—at this point that encourages fallout?
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of your process in achieving your major sales goals?  If less than excellent, why?
  • Are there other simpler, more effective strategies that can replace some of the steps in your process?

Three Principles by Which to Judge Your Process:

Simplicity:  Ockham ’s razor states that most often the simplest solution is the correct one.  The more you can simplify your process, the more success you’ll likely have.  Both seller and prospect will generally profit from a simple, straightforward, to the point solution as opposed to the often seen complexity for complexity sake process that seeks to impress and overwhelm with conceits designed to cover up weakness and confound with bluster.

Simple, by the way, does not necessarily equate to easy.  The application of Ockham’s razor does not mean that you give up any and all complexity if it is truly needed.  It simply means that you don’t make the process more complex or involved than needed (an axiom that should also be applied to every “specialized” business word ever created—often for the single reason of trying to make the simple sound complex and expensive).

Effectiveness:  Is your process producing the desired results?  If not, why not?  If your process isn’t producing the results you want and expect, then why aren’t you changing it?  The old adage that crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a truism that is actually true. 

If you’re not experiencing the results you want then your process must bear at least some of the blame.  It is true that it’s not just what you do but also how you do it.  But what you do is critical to your success and if you’re not achieving that success you must change, at least to some extent, what you are doing.

Not surprisingly, very often simplicity and effectiveness go hand ‘n hand. 

Efficiency:  The more efficient your process, the easier for both you and your prospect.  Any wasted steps contribute to a lack of simplicity and an erosion of effectiveness.

The more bloated your process, the more likely you’ll lose good solid prospects along the way.  Just as Ockham insisted on getting rid of needless complexity, you need to get rid of needless work for both you and your prospect. 

Ultimately we’re looking for the process that produces the best return on the investment of time, money and energy while maintaining the highest levels of integrity and ethics.  My experience has been that that goal tends to be most often embodied in the process that has been distilled down to its essence; that is, the one that is the simplest—purest—possible.

Can you honestly say that your process is the simplest, most effective, and efficient possible?  If not, I’d encourage you take a hard look at applying the three principles above to see how you need to change it to make it the best process possible.

Connect with me on Twitter:  @paul_mccord

Like the McCord Training page on Facebook: http://facebook.com/McCordTraining

 

March 26, 2012

Four Common Destructive Sales Management Styles

I’ve had the privilege of working with many new managers whose company hired me to help them transition from seller to manager or to work with existing managers to become more effective.  One of the recurring issues I’ve discovered is a misunderstanding of what a sales manager is.

Whether I’m working with a newly promoted seller into a frontline sales management position or an established sales leader, I often find someone with a warped and destructive idea of what a sales manager’s work is. 

Generally I find these misguided managers have adopted one of these four destructive management styles :

The Clone Coach:  A common tendency of great salespeople when promoted to manager is to believe that if they could just train all of their salespeople to be mini-me’s of themselves then everything will be great—the salespeople will be happy, they’ll make their numbers, management will be thrilled, customers will be loyal forever, and the new manager will be promoted again in no time.  Thus, the new manager sets out to coach every seller on his or her team to do exactly what they did to be successful without regard to the individual salesperson’s experience level, knowledge, personality, or skills. 

Typically the harder the manager tries to “coach” each of their salespeople to mimic the way they sold, the more frustrated each seller becomes and the more resistant to being “coached.”

Although the manager may succeed in creating one or two clones, they will alienate the majority of their team and eventually there will be a breakdown of trust and cooperation.

The Super Seller:  The Super Seller is the star salesperson who when promoted to manager tells his or her salespeople to forget about selling, “you get the prospects, I’ll sell ‘em” is the crux of their management style.  They haven’t the slightest interest in seeing their salespeople grow as sellers; their only interest is making THEIR numbers because it’s all about them.

Salespeople languish and eventually wither and die under a Super Seller for they not only have no chance to grow, if they do decide to exercise selling skills they are typically scolded for the perceived sin of costing the manager potential scalps on his or her lodge pole.

Although the manager may appear successful to upper management if judged only by the numbers, she is judged a complete failure and is resented by her team which typically suffers large turnover and discontent.

The Disciplinarian:  Less prevalent that the two previous management styles but equally dangerous is the manager who comes in with the attitude of “I’m going to whip these lazy good for nothings into shape if it kills me.”  Most typically it does kill—both the team members and the manager.

The Disciplinarian usually has a chip on their shoulder and disrespect for those they “manage.”  This manager views himself as being not only a superior seller to his team members but also more dedicated to the company and his job than they are. 

Sales teams under the thumb of the Disciplinarian suffer from morale issues that eventually result in high turnover and often outright rebellion. 

The Pal:  The Pal manager has most often been promoted from within the team and is friends with the majority of team members.  The Pal’s transition from peer to manager changes virtually nothing in the team’s relationships as the salespeople have a difficult time making the transition to viewing their old friend as their manager and the new manager has a difficult time now having to hold her former team peers accountable for their actions.

Instead of making the transition from peer to manager, the new manager makes a transition from peer to Super Friend, becoming the advocate extraordinaire for her team mates, protecting them and covering for them no matter what.  The Pal is committed to her friends and is most concerned about how they feel about her rather than managing them. 

Unfortunately for most managers who take on the role of The Pal, the lack of discipline and accountability results in the team members taking gross advantage of them—to the point that often their tenure as manager is very short lived.  . 

The common denominator that binds all four of these management styles together is a focus by the manager on themselves and their wants and needs.

Certainly managing entails coaching, and disciplining when necessary, as well as helping close a sale here and there; and needless to say making the numbers is important.  But managing involves far more than these few traits and it becomes destructive when the manager becomes completely focused on their own needs and their perceived success rather than their team’s growth and performance.

One of the keys to being a successful sales manager is having a solid understanding of human nature and in particular understanding what makes each team member tick.  More than anything else, sales management is about leadership, not about control or being the big shot or even just making the numbers.

Manager, if you see yourself locked into any of these management styles, by all means seek out a quality coach or find a quality management training company and start the process of becoming a strong manager.

Seller, if you find that you are working for one of the above managers, consider your situation carefully and make a conscious decision as to whether you want to continue in such a situation where your growth as a salesperson may be stymied and you may live in a constant state of frustration.

Follow me on Twitter: @paul_mccord
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