How do you prepare your team for success?

Prepare- multi 2This time of year is a sports lovers dream!  Most of the major sports are playing plus World Series is on and its a nail bitter!

I am watching the World Series and something struck me watching the pitchers.   The pitchers are ALWAYS prepared.   They are in a constant state of warm-up.  Many of them warm up but never get the opportunity to play but there body is ready just in case they get thrown in the game.

In the sales game it is often the other way around.  Managers often focus on the time in the field or time on the phones and they do not properly train their team on how to prepare for the meeting.    Most managers let their sales team struggle to get leads.  They wait until their reps get a strong lead then they micro manage them through how to land the account.

What if you spent more time preparing your team to land the big accounts on their own?   Being proactive  would free you up to spend more time “coaching” your team for success.

So how do you become better prepared? Of course we have to know exactly who our customer is. As always, this involves asking some questions:

•    Who is thecustomer’s boss?
•    Who’s going to be most affected by this purchase, and which way are they going to be affected?
•    What is their world is like, with our product and without our product?

We’ve got to know what are the biggest concerns, the biggest pains, the biggest fears that our customers may have without the use of our product. And what are some of the biggest cures that they can have by utilizing our product or our service?

So we have to be prepared with our opening statements and conversational points. It might be things going on in the marketplace, or some other things of relevance to them. Maybe we’ve read their website and there are things going on in their industry that we need to be talking about. Maybe we need to be knowledgeable about their competition and what’s going on, trends in their marketplace. Then we have to know how to transition from that opening statement to the meat of our presentation.

We’ve got to be prepared with the questions we’re going to ask, how we’re going to ask them, when we’re going to ask them, why we’re going to ask them, and what answers we seek. We’ve got to have follow up questions ready. We’ve got to have three, to four or five ways we have to ask each question, just in case we don’t get at the answer the first time, or the second time, or the third time.

We’ve got to be prepared to address their concerns, overcome their objections, so that we can differentiate ourselves every step along the way. We’ve got to be prepared to close the deal should we have to do that. We’ve got to be prepared to do the end around if somebody’s coming in, like the competition who sits invisibly at the table as we give our presentation.

We’ve got to be prepared to address any ghosts that might be in the closet of our company. Any ghosts that maybe the competition is trying to make the customer well aware of. We’ve got to be prepared with lots of stuff. We’ve got to be prepared to take the order, to wow them with their first delivery.

We’ve got to be prepared in every way.

And the bigger the customer the greater level of preparation you have.  On the flip side of that coin, the bigger the deal, the easier you can screw it up if you’re not going in well-prepared. And the more impact that is going to have on the long-term success of your organization in that piece of business, if you ever get another shot.

Are You Back to School and Back to Business?

UPS_Blog_13.02.13_ENGAs Summer Closes, It’s Back to School…For All of Us!!

The year, as they all seem to do lately, has been moving all-too-rapidly toward the final tri-mester.  As we head into September, our children are taking part in those “back to school” rituals of school clothes shopping, school supply shopping, and overall preparation for another upcoming year of growth and learning.

Now is a great time for all of us to take a look at what we need to do to get “Back to School!”  After a summer of vacations and long weekends, it is time to get back into the classroom and sharpen our skills for a strong close to our year.  Below are a few suggestions for your sales skill enhancement “fall curriculum:”

Prospecting and Lead Generation

Although there are many companies out there with many ways that they drive new customer interest, one solid fact remains consistent:  Customers are continually changing the way that they make the decision to buy!  With this being true, it is imperative that we take a long hard look at how it is that we a.) Get the customer’s attention and b.) Get them to give our company, product, or service a serious look.

It is no secret that our prospective customers have more access to and are much more aware of their options today than at any time in the recent past.  A quick GOOGLE search on the Internet can produce hundreds if not thousands of options as to whom to do business with as well as questions to ask, things to look out for, websites to visit, and consumer advocacy groups to confer with.  So how is it that you can show up in the best light in this arena?

Take a look at how it is that your company is portrayed in most Internet searches.  Are you on the “radar screen” when a search is done for a product or service such as yours? Invest in a consult session from a knowledgeable Internet marketing firm as to how best position yourself better on some of the most popular search engines.  Even if you think that your company, product, or service is not researched or purchased in this manner, make this investment.  The winds of change are blowing ALL of our customers to the Internet.  Doesn’t it make sense to position yourself and your company the right way?

How about your proactive outbound efforts?  What is it that you say on the phone or over email that drives customer interest towards you?  Review your prospecting scripts.  Have your salespeople leave recorded Voice Mail messages for you as a sample prospect and see if you would be moved to return the call.  Call into your company and try to navigate your electronic maze to get to a salesperson.  In today’s “you get ONE SHOT” world, you do not have the luxury of mediocrity or average in your attempts to grab the customers attention.  Adapt or perish!

Overall Sales Approach

How do the prospective opportunities that are currently languishing in your pipeline truly look?  Are they excited, poised to buy, and ready to do so from your company?  Or are they simply positioned in the pipeline based upon the great strategy of HOPE?

Our approach in the sales process needs constant development.  Over 60% of sales professionals out there can be described as Professional Presenters.  In what tends to be over 100 sales “ride-alongs” each year in our PSC Coach Program, we see so many salespeople getting in line with their competition to PITCH their product or service and to attempt to POWERPOINT their way to a sale.

We have all heard of the importance of a consultative approach to selling.  Many of you have read my book “Smart Selling-You Gotta’ Open ‘Em Before You Can Close ‘Em” in which I describe the shortest course on selling (Ask Questions and Listen).  The need to probe, diagnose, and dig deeper with our prospects, customers, and clients is so important in our sales approach today because it not only differentiates us, but it proves to be invaluable in the effort to achieve efficiency and time effectiveness in the selling and buying process.  Yet, even though we know this, we have a tendency to fall back into the “Show Up and Throw Up” mode of selling.

Take a step back this fall and re-assess your sales approach.  Look at each potential “deal” in your pipeline and ask, “What do we truly know about their motivations-their pains, their fears, their desires, their urgency, their timelines, and their highest value needs?”  Try to re-define the BEST and most impactful questions that could be and should be asked of your current and future prospects based upon what is going on in their world.

Most of all, challenge your current approach by asking this simple question:  “Do we look, sound, and act like our competition?”  If the answer is even possibly close to a yes, then challenge your entire sales organization to adjust and enhance your sales approach so that you stand out and differentiate yourself from what is rapidly becoming a commoditized world.

Customer Service Philosophy

The average company today spends six times more to attract new customers than it does to keep existing customers happy and buying from them.  With justifications of EFFICIENCY and COST CUTTING, we have thrown our customers into a service nightmare riddled with automated attendants, voicemail jail, and company policy police.  There is an attitude of indifference running rampant among companies today in relation to the way they deal with their customers.

This provides a fantastic opportunity for you to truly STAND OUT form the competition.  Customers today are expecting poor-to-average customer service from the companies with whom they choose to do business.  All you have to do is exceed those expectations and you have a shot at getting them back AND getting their referrals!  Here are just a few simple ideas that you can implement throughout your organization to differentiate yourself:

1-ANSWER YOUR TELEPHONE

Having a live human being (Director of 1st Impressions) answer the phone is becoming the exception to the rule in business today.  When people call you to do business, don’t make them work to find someone to help them!  All of your sales and marketing efforts are designed to get the phone to ring.  When it does….ANSWER IT!

2-HAVE A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC PHILOSOPHY

The customer is at the center of every company’s universe.  Without the customer, nobody has a job.  The entire philosophy of the company and all that it does needs to reflect the importance of the customer.  Anyone who touches the customer plays a role in the loyalty and growth of that customer.  Your people need to be trained and constantly monitored in the way that this philosophy is communicated and acted upon regularly.

3-STOP QUOTING COMPANY POLICY

Your customer’s, quite frankly, do not care about your rules and your policies.  Stop quoting them!  When a customer calls, it is typically because they have a problem or an issue that needs to be addressed.  They don’t want to know why you can’t handle the problem.  They don’t want to know why your company rules prohibit their progress.  They don’t want to know how it CAN’T be done!  So stop telling them.

Yes, Back to School time is upon.  Your business sales and customer service efforts are worthy of your attention!  Take a look at what has gotten you this far into 2017 and put together a solid plan to re-sharpen your efforts in all of these areas.

How Do You Manage YOUR Time??

2014-09-26-timemanagement

How many times have you caught yourself saying it, “I just don’t have the time?”

Let’s take a look at “Time Management” and what that really means. We don’t need to learn how to manage time well. We need to learn how to manage ourselves well. Time management is personal management. Time management is life management. Each one of us has been given the same 24 hours in a day. Time management is what you do with the time you have been given.

When I speak about time management in my workshops and seminars, I often say, as I learned from Stephen Covey, “There are only two things you work on every single day. These two things are either “priorities” and/or “urgencies”.  Let me define them simply for you in my terms:  Priorities are YOUR goals. Urgencies are everybody else’s goals. If you don’t have your goals clearly written down, you will more than likely find yourself working towards other people’s goals and towards other people’s successes.

One of the reasons that many people are not effective managers of time is that they are not focused enough on their own goals. If you have not taken the time to define your own goals and hold yourself accountable to achieving your goals you will not know where your priorities lie. You will become slave to other people’s priorities and you will more than likely be heard to cry, “There are just not enough hours in the day!”

Once you have clearly defined your goals by using the techniques featured in this newsletter, you are then on your way to recapturing your day. Here are 7 quick strategies to assist you. (Again, many of these tips were gleaned from books read and tips adapted from others—By the way, you are doing the same thing right now if you choose to ACT on these tips!)

  1. Begin each day the night before. DO NOT go home until you have decided what you need to accomplish the next day AND you have written it down.  You need to get into the practice of thinking and planning on paper.  You need to start working from lists.  You will find the most effective managers of their time work from lists.  When you work from a list you tend to be very focused on what you need to accomplish.  You know what you need to accomplish because you are very focused on your goals. Start with a master list. Your master list may be (or include) your annual goals.  These might be broken down into quarterly goals. There are monthly goals, weekly goals and of course daily goals.  Some people even break it down further into partial days and into hourly goals.  Writing things down help keep you focused and focus precedes success!  Learn to think on paper Learn to plan on paper. Limit the amount of “stuff/things to do” you put on your “to do” list.  If you put too much stuff on your list you risk becoming overwhelmed—and then the list becomes a list of broken promises.  Learn to say, “no” when something comes up throughout the course of the day, and something always comes up!  When things do some up, before you address it- before you start working on it-before you move on it, write it down on your daily list and stack it up against everything else.  Rank it against everything else before you take action on it because I guarantee you before you start working on somebody else’s urgency, which is somebody else’s priority, which is somebody else’s goals, yours might want to have your goals come up first!
  2. Remember the 80/20 principle.  The principle says that 80% of the results that you get every day come from 20% of the things that are on your list. That means there are 1 or 2 items that are on your list every day that severely affect the outcome of the results that you get every single day.  Therefore, be careful what you are working on.  Often we tend come into the office and focus on getting the “little stuff” out of the way first.  How many times have you started to work on the “little stuff” and the next thing you know, its 2:00 in the afternoon? When this happens you might start feeling like a victim because now you are not getting the things done you wanted to accomplish that day.
  3. Take your list and rank it continually. Here is a simple way to rank your list every day.  Write down a simple alphabet:  A, B, C, D, E. Any “A” items that are on your list are “MUST DO” tasks. These are the non-negotiable items that often have serious consequences if you don’t get them done.  It might be a proposal you have to get done or a deal that’s got to get closed. It could be a part that has to be delivered etc. A word of caution here; Be careful how many “must do” items are on your list!  Next, rank your “A’s” according to priority: #1 – A, #2 – A and so forth.“B” ranked items are “SHOULD DO” tasks.  These are the things that should get done but if they don’t there are only mild consequences. The important thing to keep in mind about “B” items is that you never start a “B” task until all of the “A” tasks are done. to do” you put on your “to do” list.  If you put too much stuff on your list you risk becoming overwhelmed—and then the list becomes a list of broken promises.  Learn to say, “no” when something comes up throughout the course of the day, and something always comes up!  When things do some up, before you address it- before you start working on it-before you move on it, write it down on your daily list and stack it up against everything else.  Rank it against everything else before you take action on it because I guarantee you before you start working on somebody else’s urgency, which is somebody else’s priority, which is somebody else’s goals, yours might want to have your goals come up first!
  4. Remember the 80/20 principle.  The principle says that 80% of the results that you get every day come from 20% of the things that are on your list. That means there are 1 or 2 items that are on your list every day that severely affect the outcome of the results that you get every single day.  Therefore, be careful what you are working on.  Often we tend come into the office and focus on getting the “little stuff” out of the way first.  How many times have you started to work on the “little stuff” and the next thing you know, its 2:00 in the afternoon? When this happens you might start feeling like a victim because now you are not getting the things done you wanted to accomplish that day.
  5. Take your list and rank it continually. Here is a simple way to rank your list every day.  Write down a simple alphabet:  A, B, C, D, E. Any “A” items that are on your list are “MUST DO” tasks. These are the non-negotiable items that often have serious consequences if you don’t get them done.  It might be a proposal you have to get done or a deal that’s got to get closed. It could be a part that has to be delivered etc. A word of caution here; Be careful how many “must do” items are on your list!  Next, rank your “A’s” according to priority: #1 – A, #2 – A and so forth.“B” ranked items are “SHOULD DO” tasks.  These are the things that should get done but if they don’t there are only mild consequences. The important thing to keep in mind about “B” items is that you never start a “B” task until all of the “A” tasks are done.  The “C” items are the “NICE TO DO” tasks.  It might be lunch with a colleague or perhaps running an errand. These “nice to do’s” never ever get started until both the “A” and “B” items have been checked off.  The “D” items are meant to be DELEGATED to someone else.  As the sales professional, you should be the highest paid person in your organization. YOU pay you. If your desire is to earn a lot of money, you must ask yourself all the time, “Is what I am doing right now indicative of the highest paid person in this organization?” If the answer is “NO” than determine who you can delegate the item to. Remember, if you don’t have an assistant, you ARE one!  The “E’s” on your list are those items you need to ELIMINATE.  Often the “E” items are things like bad habits.
  6. Define your key result areas. What are the things you need to do in order to be a sales professional?  You have to prospect. You have to be able to negotiate. You have to be able to work well on the phone and you have to be able to work well in a group setting. You have to network and you have to generate referrals. You have to possibly cold call and send well-crafted emails. You have to learn to open by asking better questions. You have to listen to your customer, etc. etc. There are MANY things you have to be able to do to be effective as a Sales Professional.  Once you define your key result areas, next figure out the areas you lack the most confidence in or have a tendency to be the least effective at. These are the areas you tend to need the most help with and the areas that require the most focus. Buy some books and read them, takes some courses, invest in Internet training, invest in a coach and get better in these areas.  Why is this in a time management article? Very simple.  If you don’t have the time to do it correctly and effectively, how in the world will you have the time to do it over? The areas you are the most ineffective at will always hold you back from your success as a Sales Professional!  Define those key result areas you are going to focus on and devote the time to.
  7. Take one bite at a time.  There is an old joke: Q: how do you eat an elephant?  A: One bite at a time.  Many of us have large projects in front of us with big things we must accomplish. It could be a huge “to-do” list or one overwhelming task. The feeling might be, “I will NEVER get that done!” You might procrastinate or talk about it. You may just moan and complain until you are behind the gun in time.  Try focusing on each task and THAT alone. Start it; finish it. Get it done and get it off the list. In this way you will slowly start to move your way through.  Even the largest houses are built one brick at a time.  The most successful sales people built their book of business ONE account at a time.  Practice creative procrastination.  This is done by learning what NOT to do.  In time management, it’s not just figuring out what needs to get done, it’s often figuring out what can be left undone that is critical.  Some of the best masters of their time are the ones that set things aside that don’t need to get done right now and address them later. Often times salespeople tend to work on the little stuff or we work on other people’s stuff or we work on stuff that seems easier. It’s these items that have little impact and severely decrease our productivity (although it fills us with activity) and thus take away from the management of our time.
  8. “Eat the big frog first.”  There is an old saying that says if you’ve got to sit down and eat a bunch of frogs, don’t stare at them for too long and if you are going to get started, eat the biggest frog first.  Every day, what do we do?  We come in to the office and we say “let me just clear this up, check these emails”, let me do this, let me do that, and the next thing you know, it is 4:00 and we have these big tasks, and big jobs overwhelming us!  We’ve got all these things going on and not only are we not productive with our time; we are not getting the things done that we need to get done!  This is the time to take you’re A, B, C, D, E list out.  The first thing that you work on is the biggest frog.  You’re A-1 task is your biggest frog! Sit down and tackle it.  Start it; work your way through it and finish it.
  9. Develop and maintain a sense or urgency.  Put an exclamation above your head, put an asterisk on either side on it and that’s what you want to be your logo for life as a sales professional. (*!*) You are in a world where everyone needs something done and they need it done now!  The people who are the most successful in the profession of sales are those who get it done better and get it done faster! Nike has built an empire around 3 words, “Just Do It”.  My 3 words are “Get It Done”.  Get it done and move on to the next thing.  That’s the hallmark of time management professionals.  Here are a few tips for doing so:
    • Tip #1: Single handle every task.  Start it; get all the way through it before you move onto the next thing. You will cut the time it takes to do everything else in half.
    • Tip #2: Join the 5 o’clock club. Get up in the morning earlier.  From 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m., I have a little thing that I like to call the Golden 120 because those are my 120 minutes every day that customers do not need me, my wife does not need me, my kids do not need me and my employees do not need me. Those 120 minutes are “my time”.  I may choose to work out, read a book, or write newsletter article or a new sales training module. The one thing I am NOT going to do during this time is sleep it away! You will be amazed at how much you can get done every day with the Golden 120 in the 5 o’clock club.
    • Tip #3: Turn your inbound Email off 10 o’clock. Don’t open your email until 10 o’clock. When you are taking email from people, you are working on what they want you to do.  Focus on what you do from 8 to 10; you will be amazed at what happens.

I want to wish you the absolute best of selling and remember, there is no such thing as the management of time. Practicing self-discipline along with these 7 strategies above will set you on your way to effectively manage the time that you have been given and ensure that you are working on YOUR priorities.

Are You Asking The Right Questions??

Businessman with hand written business themed texts and pictures

A major part of my training focuses on the salesperson asking better questions in the interest of “opening” the prospective buyer.  It is my belief that better questions get better answers and that those answers assist the salesperson in “building the case” for their products or services.  This article, however, is not about the salesperson, but rather the sales manager.

A sales manager’s job is NOT to grow sales!  It is the job of the sales manager to grow salespeople.  The attitude and skills sets that they build and develop in their salespeople are the things that will grow the sales for any company.  One of the areas that I find that sales managers can truly move into that COACH role is by preparing and asking solid questions of their salespeople.  Here are a few points to consider:

1-The Pre-Call Huddle

Prior to going on the sales call, every sales manager should engage in a pre-call huddle with their salespeople.  The pre-call huddle should occur well in advance of the sales call.  Depending upon the complexity and size of the potential sale, the pre-call huddle could happen several days or several hours before the actual call.  The purpose of the pre-call huddle (and the questions that are asked in it) is to gauge the preparation and mindset of the salesperson.  The pre-call huddle should include any and all people that could play a role in the acquisition and retention of the customer.  Most efforts are won by teams and it is a major responsibility of the sales manager to create the best team possible for each of the company’s opportunities.

2-The “Coaching” Field Call

Too many managers try to lead from behind a desk.  They gauge the success or failure of their salespeople by the amount of calls they make or the amount of closed business at the end of the day.  Activity management and results management are two weak areas in which a sales manager can find himself/herself making bad decisions.  We need to get off the sidelines and get into the game with our people.  Attending sales calls with our salespeople (whether riding “shotgun” on the telephone or in person) will help identify the areas in which we can make the most impact for our people.  It is on these calls that we can see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears the various approaches that our people take to identify highest value needs (HVNs) our customers and communicate our value to the market.

3-The Post-Call De-brief

We tend to learn from both our wins as well as our losses.  In fact, I would bet that you would offer that you learn more from your losses!  Sales managers need to make a habit to de-brief with their salespeople on a regular basis.  We need to not only get the information of what occurred on the sales call.  We need to understand what happened and why!  Although the information (did it close or not) is important, it is limiting to our growth for the future.  We need to identify what our people learned on the “wins” so that we can ensure we win again.  We also need to discover what our people learned from the “losses” to ensure we do not repeat it in the future.  Understanding what our people know and do not know will help us to design the appropriate strategies by which to assist in their growth on our teams.

Questions are a big part of this.  Here at Sales Coach International, we have recently found ourselves creating many “Question Guides” for our clients.  The process of doing so is more a matter of getting “buy-in” to the importance of using questions in the sales process to open the customer and get the information and understanding that we need to properly navigate the sales process.  Once everyone is on the same page, we identify several areas in which we ask questions and task everyone on the team to send us their top questions in these areas.  After several “takes” and “re-takes” we end up with a solid compilation of questions from those in the field of battle every day.  The list itself serves as a great “cheat sheet” for those salespeople to use on a day to day basis.

The challenge we find is that the sales managers of these teams need to continue to gauge the pre-call mindset and the pre-call preparation of the salesperson in order for the right sales approach to be taken.  Because of this, we subsequently packaged recent versions of the Question Guides to include questions that we want the salespeople to continually ask of themselves before making any call:

1-What’s the Purpose of this Call?

2-What do we Know?

3-What do we Need to Know?

4-What do we Need to “Get Out on the Table?”

These four questions, along with several more industry specific questions are included in the first few pages of the Question Guide.  The interesting result was that what we actually came up with was a “cheat sheet” by which sales managers could continually coach and develop the pre-call mindset and prep work of their salespeople.  The Question Guide becomes a vital part of the Pre-Call Huddle, The Coaching Field Call, and the Post Call De-Brief.

I suggest that you give this a try.  Build a series of relevant questions with your salespeople that they can reference prior to sales calls.  Package that Question Guide with a few of the questions above that will be great reminders for both the salesperson AND the manager as to the things that they need to have prepared for every call.  We like to believe that salespeople constantly need “sharpening of the axes” to keep ahead of the competition.  Often, sales managers need a few tools to re-focus our coaching efforts as well.  For more information as to how to create this tool, call Sales Coach International toll free at 866-979-LAYO(5296).

ARE THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER MAKING YOU FEEL UNMOTIVATED??

dog-days-of-summerWe call them the dog days of summer.  The long, hot days of summer seem to have salespeople and customers alike under a listless spell.  The call of the shoreline, the lake, the golf course, and many other assorted vacations pull the focus away from the necessary tasks at hand. Sales tend to lag, profits tend to decrease, and the fourth quarter is looming on the all to near horizon.

As we head into August this year, let’s take a long hard look at the state of our sales departments.  In many industries this marketplace in which we find ourselves currently presents challenges the likes of which have not been seen in years.  Fear, uncertainty, and multiple changes have slowed down the typical buying cycles and more is demanded of the salespeople to create results.  Now, add in the dog days of summer where decision-makers have “checked out” on various vacations, and the salespeople really have a challenge on their hands.

In such a diverse set of circumstances in the industries in which we are coaching, there is one thing that remains constant this summer.  That is the need for the salespeople to stay focused on what’s going on in their respective marketplaces and to project themselves and their sales heading into the upcoming quarter.

Have your salespeople met their projected results thus far this year?  If so, how will they continue that trend into the close of the year?  If not, what magical events will occur for them to hit company goals for the close of the year?  As we head into August, we might want to go back and take inventory of our people, our processes, our systems, and our goals.

Remember, the holiday months are less than 120 days away.  During those months, many companies tend to have a similar experience with the results of their sales departments.  People are focused more on the holidays then they are on finishing the year strong.  Why fall victim to this phenomenon this year?  Now is the time to start planning your approach in the marketplace for the end of the year.  What can be done different internally?  How can you look to build a platform on which your people will strive for greater results?

Here is a blueprint plan of ACTION!!

1-Turn up the volume!  HUSTLE!

I often see the management and leadership elements of organizations “taking a hiatus” during the summer months. Now is the time to increase your focus on your team.  Get on the phones with them today!  Get in the field with them today!  Show them the HUSTLE and URGENCY that you need from them.  Re-engage with your teams and model the behavior that you seek!  If you are willing to do it (and do it more than once), then they have no excuse!

2-Follow the LEADER

Do you remember playing that game with your friends when you were young?  Play it with your company now!  In order for the game to be any fun, however, you need a leader!  Are you willing to jump in with both feet and LEAD?  Leaders communicate, recognize, empower, coach, direct, and win with their people!  Managers aren’t always leaders.  Besides….who ever played “follow the Manager?”

  • Start an “intensity” month with daily morning huddles defining the day’s strategy.
  • Measure everything and inspect what you expect!
  • Have an ALL-HANDS meeting and bring in an expert to re-align all the players.
  • Develop a 6-month IDP (Individual Development Plan) with each of your people.
  • Redefine what WINNING means and start driving that bus!

3-Design and Run a New Contest

What do you need more of?  What needs more attention and focus from your team?  What areas need re-energizing?

  • New products need to get into the marketplace?
  • Customer service standards need to dramatically increase?
  • New accounts need to be opened?
  • Need to penetrate, fortify, and grow your top 25 accounts?
  • Relationships need to improve with your best clients?
  • Need to get new “breath” on the team?

4-STOP Recognizing and Rewarding Mediocrity

Is it OK to fail when working for you?  Is it OK to not really try when working for you?  Is it OK to not really be ALL-IN when working for you?  Is it OK to not meet minimum expectations when working for you?  If so……you are letting your people down.  Every time we let it be “OK” to any of the above things, we actually make it OK to be mediocre!  Why, because MOST people are only mediocre.  Most people phone it in, don’t really push themselves, and don’t ever travel the extra mile!

Identify those that have either “checked out” on you or on themselves and the team and do something about it!  They may choose to “phone it in” each day ONLY because you make it OK to do so.

We have less than 4 months left in the year to accomplish our goals.  Don’t let the summer Dog Days drag you, your people, and your results down.  DO SOMETHING about it….NOW!!

Is Your Price Too High??

Better PriceThe marketplace into which we, as sales professionals sell is constantly, rapidly changing.  The customer of today has options and, because of more access to information via the internet, is more knowledgeable about each of these options.  These options include competing vendors, features, benefits, marketing materials, delivery schedules, and PRICING!  They know (or at least have a fairly solid idea) what your price is (and your competitor’s) before you even walk in the door.

Also, buyers in major corporations of today are being trained differently.  They are being trained on what to do and what NOT to do in the buyer/seller relationship.  They are attending negotiation courses.  They are being rotated in and out of their buyer positions by management so that there is less chance of friendships, relationships, and favoritism.  “Get me the lowest bid!” is the battle cry to which they charge.

No wonder our salespeople say that price is the number one issue that they have to tackle every day.  In fact, many customers will say that, all things being equal, price is their main consideration in making a buying decision.  My response?

SO STOP MAKING ALL THINGS EQUAL!  CREATE A POSITIVE PERCEPTION OF DIFFERENCE (PPOD) IN EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR OFFER!

Studies have shown that 17% of all buyers make their buying decision based solely on the price of the product or service.  So if you are not the low price leader, you are guaranteed a loss 17% of the time!  That still leaves 83% of the universe (or at least your part of it) that will do business with you based upon other criteria in addition to price.  I can live with this percentage.

Let’s go over a handful of things to focus on when entering any sale that may lead to price becoming a consideration:

#1-You will lose more than you win—deal with it!

You are in the professional NO taking business.  As a sales pro, you have chosen to do for a living that which terrifies an overwhelming portion of the rest of the population.  Even if you are a superstar in this business, you will lose at least three times to every one that you win.  Realize that not everyone will love you, your product/service, your price, your features, your advantages, your benefits, your approach, your passion, your drive, or your other proposal points.  Set yourself up to win as best you can by making sure that you are only dealing with people who can make decisions.  Make sure that you are in front of the “juice” before you start to negotiate.

#2-Stop talking about PRICE!

Every year studies are done that ask buyers to rank the things that they weigh when making a purchase.  The number one criterion every year is the TRUST they have in the Salesperson.  Number two is the RESPECT that they have for the salesperson.  Number three is the REPUTATION of the company.  Number four is the specific BENEFITS of the product/service being offered.  Number five is PRICE!

I am so tired of hearing salespeople say that they hate when customers bring up price all the time.  It is often these salespeople that lead the presentation with statements or phrases like “get you the best deal we can” or “lowest price” or “beat the competition’s price” or “knock your socks off price” or “save you money.”  Most salespeople do not realize that by saying things like this early in the sales presentation, they are actually setting themselves up for price objections.

#3-Nobody wants to buy what you are selling!

Although this is not a very inspirational statement, it is very true.  Taking ownership of your product or service is not the goal of most buyers.  They want the benefit of what your product or service does.  Everyone who owns a power drill simply wanted a hole.  Everyone buys insurance simply wants peace of mind.  Everyone who buys advertising simply wants more sales and profits.

Stop selling quality, service, reliability, experience, knowledge, etc.  Your competition tries its best to sell that too!  Sell what those things mean to the customer in the form of a benefit.  Who knows what they want as far as a benefit?  They do!  So probe, dig, diagnose, and discover what it is they really want through ownership of your product or service.  Let them buy THAT from you and price is a much lower consideration.

#4-Shut up and sell! 

The sale is made with your ears before your mouth!  If you ask enough of the right questions and really listen to the answers, your customer will explain your business to you!

A tailor-made value proposition is a key element to making a sale.  I just purchased a tailor-made suit that was made specifically for me.  Before we got started, I answered many questions as to the style of suits I liked, the events for which I wore suits, the durability which I desired in a suit, how often I dry clean a suit, how I store a suit when not being worn, what’s important for me in a suit, what’s important for other people to feel when they see me in a suit, etc, etc.  Next, we together picked out the fabric for the suit based upon my specific needs.  Next, I stood on the tailor’s stepstool for what seemed to be hours of specific measurements.  By the time I finished this process, I was willing to pay a substantial premium (and I did) for MY SUIT.  Could I have gotten a similar product “off the rack” for much less?  No doubt.  Might they have steered me towards a fabric that they had in stock?  Sure!  But I did not feel that way.  I felt like they wanted to create for me much more than a suit.  They wanted to create a feeling in me that would come alive every time that I wore that suit.

The message:  Without the specific answers I provided to them and without the specific measurements that they took, the suit was just a suit that would fit me however someone at some point decided I should be sized.  For this, I pay no premium.  For this, I look at the price tag. Stop selling “off the rack” and start tailoring your offer to fit your customer.

#5-What if you had to charge more?

Imagine that President Obama descended down from his post at the White House and decided that he would pass a law that made it absolutely mandatory for you and your company to be the highest price in the marketplace into which you sell.  No matter what your competition charged for a similar product/service, you had to be higher priced by no less than 5%.

What would you do differently?  How would your approach change?  How would you add value?  What else would you bring to the table?  How would your service standards change?

This “look inside” is often one of the best exercises that a company and an individual salesperson can go through.  It takes the blame for lost sales off the marketplace into which you sell and the price of your offering and puts the responsibility on YOU!   All of us can improve in some way.  And if we are challenged, we can often rise up to do so. It just takes a hard look inside.  Are you prepared to do that?

Price negotiation is often a real part of a sales professional’s life every day.  But it does not have to be every time!  If you focus on the right things up front, you can steer your customer’s focus to the right things at the close!

Focus Precedes Success

 

shutterstock - coachingWorking with salespeople and sales leaders every month, I get the good fortune of discovering a lot about human nature in the profession of sales.  The top producers that I observe do many things that many average sellers do not.  And part of the main reason that I see for this is based upon their FOCUS!

In today’s sales profession, the bar has been raised for performance, expectations, and accessibility.  Our customers expect more from their salesperson in the form of knowledge, experience, timeliness, immediacy if information, technological expertise, and service.  Why?  I believe it because they have more access to information via the internet.  I also believe that they get inundated with information and opportunity via email the media.  The sheer volume of this information drives their needs and their expectations.  More and more often today, I see this trend creating a sharp distinction between the hitters and the heavy hitters in the sales profession.

There are a handful of common things on which top salespeople put their focus regularly.  I have picked out three of these areas for this article so that my readers can get started (or continue) putting their constant attention where they need to:

I-Pre-Call Preparation

Top producers believe that what happens BEFORE the sale is more important than what goes on during the sale.  They realize that today more than ever, they need to make a solid IMPACT in every call beginning with their first meeting with a prospective new customer to their regular calls with their valued clients.  These top performers take time before every call to be thoroughly briefed about the person that they are about to see, the company that that person represents, the needs that they may have, the vendors that may currently have the account, and the influences that may drive interest towards the sale.

II—Begin with the End in Mind

Stephen Covey introduced us to this habit in his book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”   It is my belief that when a salesperson focuses on what the end result looks and feels like in any sales cycle, he/she will navigate the seas with a stronger purpose.

This area of focus butterflies well into Pre Call Preparation but it starts with a vision, a goal.  When I speak to many companies looking to engage the coaching side of our business, I often ask them questions in the Discovery Process that are focused on 3 main timeframes:

1-A Look Back over Your Shoulder-(What got us to this point?)

2-A Current Overview (What is the “State of the Union?”)

3-What do you Want to be When you Grow Up? (What is the vision of the ideal future?)

This format allows us to “frame up” the things that got us to where we are and to define the things that are necessary to get us where we want to go.  If my staff and I feel that the deliverable is attainable and that the process will be one that we can drive, then we build everything that we do with the END result in mind.

III—Constant Forward Motion

In some of the training sessions that I do, one of the modules that we cover is CLOSING.  Although I am a big believer in the fact that the OPENING and DISCOVERY process drive your CLOSING strategy, it is imperative that the salesperson is the Captain of these efforts.  As such, the salesperson needs to call the plays and keep the other participants (prospects, influencers, decision makers, etc.) involved and engaged in the process.  I find one of the easiest ways that top salespeople continually get to the next step is that they clearly define what the next step is and then they relentlessly ask for it and expect to get it.

They understand that most steps in the sales cycle do not lead to the close of the SALE but can (and often do) lead to the close of SOMETHING—and they call the shot by asking a simple “moving forward question” such as “So, Mrs. Customer, what’s our next step?”  By getting into and keeping the habit of asking “So what’s our next step,” the salesperson keeps the prospective customer involved and engaged in the buying process.  They continue to gauge the prospective customer’s level of commitment by attaching a forward step to every stage (gate) that you pass through.

In the effort of effectively PLANNING with THE END IN MIND, the top producers always focus on WHAT’S NEXT!

 

The top sales professionals have a tendency to focus on just a few things that drive the behavior and action that sets them apart from the competition.

It has often said that THOUGHT drives BEHAVIOR/ACTION.  In a selling environment today that demands more of the salesperson than ever, the areas in which they spend that thought become more important than ever.  Start with the three areas above and understand that what goes on in your mind before the sale trumps what comes out of your mouth during the sale.

 

 

How long does it take to know if your new hire “Gets It”?

gets itHow long does it take for a new hire (salesperson) to “ramp-up” in your business until they effectively producing results and paying for their seats?

This is a question that I ask regularly throughout sessions to business leaders and sales managers throughout North America. Overall, the answers vary dependent upon a lot of factors such as type of hire (veteran or new-to-sales), type of product/service, length of sales cycle, dollar amount of the product/service, retail or wholesale, incoming or outgoing calls, salesperson’s role (account manager vs. new biz development), and current training program. The range tends to fall anywhere between 90 days and 2 years with variations occasionally on either end of the range.

My follow-up question tends to be tougher to hear—even tougher to answer: “How long does it take you to get a feeling as to whether or not someone “gets it” and “will make it on your team?” The answer to this question reflects a timeframe much shorter than the original answer. In fact, most CEOs/Sales Managers answer that they can get a “pretty good read” within 60-90 days! Most, however, don’t DO anything about it when that read is not positive! Instead, they ignore that nagging feeling and HOPE for a good turnout! And 3 years later, the gut feeling is still proving to be correct—Barnacle Bill is still “stuck to the hull” of the company! WHY??

We find that most companies are not really clear on what it is that they expect from the people who represent them in the field. Too often, the lack of sales results is the only indicator of a salesperson’s worth (or lack thereof) —and by then, they have been in the marketplace calling on those precious prospects and customers for far too long!

We suggest that you build plan (a series of testing) to check on their progress EARLY in the game. Think about this idea for a moment; for the first 20+ years of your life, you regularly were tested throughout your school years to check in on your retention of the curriculum being taught. Those who fell behind either got extra attention (tutoring) or got held back. The goal, of course was to ensure that before an individual was able to progress to the next level, that they understood and were able to “stand up to testing” on the material they just learned so that actual application of the material may one day be the result!

In business, we need to follow suit! As stated above, most company leaders/sales managers agree that they can tell (usually a “gut” call) within 90 days if someone gets it. So why not make that time period into your Level ONE training period (with quizzes and testing) for your salespeople? We believe in creating a simple series of tests (augmented with regular quizzes) that “check-in” on the training at 30, 60, and 90 days. One of the main problems is that this testing must follow the training program content and timeframe—and too often there is no SET training program scheduled. If you have any plan on hiring new salespeople for your organization now or in the future, here is a simple (not necessarily easy) step by step thought process to help you get started on setting them up for success early:

The First 30 Day Period
Begin to think about what it is that you need for new hires to know within the first 30 days on your team. The first 30 days can be absolutely crucial to a new hire’s success! Every new hire, within the first 30 days, wonders if they have made a mistake joining your company. Your focus and attention on their immediate integration into your training plans will definitely help put peace of mind to those concerns for them and will also help you better understand what you just hired. So here are a few thoughts (QUSETIONS) about areas of introductory training within the first 30 days:

  • What do they need to know about your company’s structure?
  • What do they need to know about basic HR processes?
  • What do they need to know about your phone systems? Voicemail?
  • What do they need to know about your web/email philosophy?
  • What do they need to know about your technology (databases, etc.)?
  • What do they need to know about their fellow salespeople?
  • What do they need to know about management?
  • What do they need to know about sales team structure (territories, accounts, etc.)?
  • What do they need to know about internal systems/processes?
  • What do they need to know about what you sell (product knowledge)?
  • What do they need to know about your proposals/bids (creation, content, delivery)?
  • What do they need to know about your competitors?
  • What do they need to know about your “go-to market” strategy?
  • What do they need to know about your sales/customer service philosophy/policies?
  • What do they need to know about your pricing and your competitor’s pricing?
  • What do they need to know about your overall marketing strategy?
  • What do they need to know about your lead generation process?
  • What do they need to know about your web strategy?
  • What do they need to know about your prospects, customers, and clients?
  • What do they need to know about minimum performance standards and expectations?

As you can see, there should never be a shortage of conversation and curriculum (or training manual content) for new salespeople on your team. There are very likely many things specific to your company that are NOT on the above list that your new hires need exposure to in the first 30 days. We are literally just getting started!
Now, the trick is to prioritize, schedule, and introduce the necessary things listed above (in the right doses) over the first 30 days. You can see that a fair degree of thought and preparation needs to go into this. (That’s why so few companies actually do it!) I suggest that you come up with a quiz consisting of 30 Questions (30 days—30 questions—easy to remember) that is based upon the training content that has been covered. Your goal is to see if your new hire is retaining the training! Soon, they will be on the phone with or in front of your cherished prospects and customers. You need to see if they are getting it!

Poor scores on the 30 day test will force you to take a hard look at both the training and the individual being tested. Assuming that the training has been well-thought out and delivered thoroughly and effectively (this is a BIG assumption—inspect this regularly) then turn your attention to the new hire? Are they able to grasp this training? At the very least, it should determine a much closer look (and possibly some additional attention-tutoring) in the next 30 day period. Remember, this is only the first MONTH that they are with you. They should be on their BEST behavior and still in the “gotta prove myself” mode! It rarely gets better!

The 2nd 30 Day Period (60 Days IN)
It is my assumption that you now should have a fairly decent working knowledge of your new hire’s strengths and ability to learn. You have most likely, by this point, covered a substantial amount of the foundational knowledge that is necessary to “get on the playing field” and begin to “run a few drills” with the team. You have exposed the new sales superstar to your company background, internal workings, competitive environment, team environment, performance expectations, and more! They are ready for some real coaching now! Here are a few thoughts (QUESTIONS) for the next 30 days with your company?

  • How will you continue their product knowledge training on a consistent basis and how can this occur on their time as well (home study—backed by quizzes)?
  • How can you best communicate and help them understand, from your customer’s point of view, the true benefit/value that your product or service delivers?
  • What Success Stories/Case Studies will you share (in writing) with your newer hires to help them understand what we deliver for our valued customers? How can these stories become part of their “toolbox” to be shared in the marketplace?
  • How will you share with them the questions that need to be commonly asked in the marketplace to build rapport (connect) with customers and understand their motivations to buy? What questions do they need to learn to ask to better position them (and your company) as partners, advisors, and experts rather than vendors?
  • What is it that you can share with them about the customer’s mindset and business situations that will allow them to LISTEN and WATCH for key buying messages from the customer?
  • What resources (scripts) will you create and teach them (practice) to use to get through voicemail? What will be the purpose of each of their outbound calls and what should they offer/say at each level?
  • How will you teach them to set appropriate qualified appointments and to understand what qualified means?
  • What will their Business Acquisition Plan (BAP) look like? What will the profile of a prospect look like and do you/they have it in writing? What does a key prospect look like and how is it that you will show them how, and provide resources to get visible to those key prospects?
  • In what way will you illustrate and teach the specific stages of your typical sales cycle? How will you communicate the need for and particular examples of clear “Purpose of the Call” and “Calls to Action” for each one of these stages?
  • What sort of pre-call preparation initiatives will the salesperson be expected to go through for each and every sales call? Where do you want them to start and what do you NEED them to understand before they make that call?
  • What are the main benefits of the ownership of your product or service and how will you ensure that your newer hires understand to center their presentations on these things rather than features?
  • How will you teach the Presentation to your new hires? How will they deliver it to your prospective new customers? What depth of training/understanding does a proper demonstration of value of your product/service take? How much importance in your training program will this (the Presentation/Demo) play. Hint: Don’t make the presentation be the entire focus of the training.

Again, you can see that there is no shortage whatsoever of thoughts that need to go into the creation of your training program and the curriculum to which your new sales hires need to be exposed. This vital period within the second 30 days is when your people will most likely start to have contact with your prospects and customers. The questions above should help you put some framework around what they need exposure to. Does your training program begin to go into this type of detail? Is there an unwritten expectation/assumption that your new hires will know all of this “stuff” intuitively? Do you want to build your organization based upon expectations and assumptions or do you want to define the approach and design the approach?
I suggest that a variety of homework, quizzes, role practices (no PLAY here-PRACTICE) take place during this time-frame. Confidence on the part of the salesperson comes from rehearsal! Don’t just practice the presentation—practice the questions. Practice the listening. Practice the voicemails? Work all of the elements of the sale and the salesperson is likely to be stronger in every area. It shouldn’t matter to you that a salesperson can do a good PowerPoint presentation if he/she cannot even get an appointment to do so! On the 60 day anniversary of their hire date, I suggest a 60 Question Test that reviews and checks in on their retention of what has been taught to them over the previous 2 months! I suggest that the test has a variety of questions covering ALL things learned. Perhaps you might have essay questions running through some “what-if” scenarios of product application or customer questions. Maybe you weigh 10% of their grade based upon a half day observation of their telephone prospecting abilities—not just results! You might count a substantial portion of their grade on their pre call preparation format or their business acquisition plan visibility efforts. Whatever you do, make sure that you understand IF they are retaining AND beginning to apply the things that you teach. Inspect what you expect!
If the new hire (not so new anymore) is showing that they are not adapting well to the training at this point, you may need to actually do something about it! Do not “turn the other way” if you see that your training program is NOT making a substantial impact on one of your newer salespeople. You have designed and defined the approach that you need your people to take into the marketplace! If you are to build a truly World Class Sales Organization, you can only put “Grade A” product (salespeople) in front of your prospects, customers, and clients. The fact that someone does not “make the cut” in your training program does NOT mean that you are a failure. Instead, it means that you are serious about the value of a customer and NOT willing to put that value at risk by fielding a lees-than-adequate team! It’s not the people that you fire that hurt you—it’s the people that you DON’T fire that can hurt you!

The 3rd 30 Day Period (90 Days)
During this timeframe, your salespeople should now be in a much more proactive role of approaching and engaging prospects, customers and even possibly clients (if you assign accounts!) What are the things on which they need continued training and deeper knowledge during this timeframe? On what particular areas does their early selling success depend? Here are just a few more questions that you may wish to consider when preparing training content for this period:

  • How is it that you can get your newer hires integrated into the marketplace through networking events? How will you lay out a training plan for how to “work a room” at a mixer or “walk the floor” at a tradeshow?
  • How will you facilitate regular communication among the sales and service teams to ensure learning through cross training initiatives?
  • How can you get the newer sales hires to engage and share their experiences with the team in your training environment? (One of the best ways to learn is to teach?)
  • How can you build, with your team, some tools and resources to increase confidence, credibility, and conversion rates? (Question Guides, Objection Guides, Success Story Guides)
  • When and how often can you get out on a sales call (or day of sales calls) with your new hires and what will that experience be like? What is it that you want to show them? More importantly, what is it that you need to observe about them and their use of the training?
  • If you have to grade them (and you do) on their skill sets on the phone, how is it that you can “ride silent shotgun” while they prospect and work over the phone?
  • How is it that you can measure the amount and effectiveness of their organization and pre call prep work?
  • How will you expect them to capture vital prospect, customer, and client information in your Contact Management software or CRM program? What reports/tracking MUST be created for you each week and how will you use these to help?
  • How will you differentiate your company through the immediate and professional levels of follow-up of the sales team? How do you define and teach these follow up initiatives (written, electronic, telephone, value-add) to your salespeople and measure them?
  • What is the level of importance that you and your organization put on generation of referrals? Do you have a specific plan that you have trained (and that your people follow) to ask for, attain, and follow up on these referrals?How will you measure this?

At the end of the first 90 days in a salesperson’s life, a FINAL exam MUST be administered to everyone! For those who are doing well, the final exam is a validation of what they learned and the importance of these things to the organization that provides them the opportunity to earn a living. Make sure that your Training Program “sets people up to WIN” by discussing the things that they will be tested and measured on throughout the first 90 days. Don’t be secretive or aloof with the material and the expectations! Build winners through strong communication and teamwork!

If, however, your gut and the TESTING show you that your new salesperson is having substantial difficulty with the retention and application of the training content, you may need to consider, as I stated above, freeing up their future. It must now be clear to you (and to the trainee as well) that they do not have one with you!

With a clear beginning curriculum and training program broken into a 30-60-90 day time frame, you will not only lay out a clear path for the growth of your new salespeople, you will also set out a clear path for your growth as a coach! Every team learns, practices, and prepares BEFORE game day. Every team runs drills regularly and integrates training and repetition into their day-to-day regimen to ensure better results with the game (the sale/the relationship) on the line. Integrate regular quizzing and testing of your team to help them continually understand that their FOCUS is imperative to their success.

One more thing: Don’t limit the testing to only new hires. Once you have created your 30-60-90 day tests, give them to your seasoned veteran salespeople to take. You might be surprised what you will discover that they do NOT know or that they ASSUME! Be careful though….this will necessitate ongoing coaching from you. Actually…..THAT is the entire purpose of this article! Today’s marketplace demands better performance and immediate adaptation to ever-changing customer needs. Are you prepared to run up against that defense or not?

negotiation

Earn a Higher Price – Would you buy from you?

  • What is it that you bring to the table that your competition cannot or will not?
  • What is it that you offer that your prospects, customers, and clients would be willing to stand in line and/or pay a premium to have?
  • What value do you bring to the equation that creates a greater perception of value for your product or service and thus commands a higher price?
  • Would you buy from you at premium prices?  If the answer is yes….and I hope to high heavens that it is….Why?

We are selling in a marketplace today that demands more from sales professionals.  Communication tools such as cell phones and email are creating a level of expectation from our customers that is getting harder and harder to meet.  The internet is leveling the playing field as far as access to information.  (Everyone can Google you and your competition before you walk in the door.)  The result?  Buyers that have a higher degree of sophistication (or at least a higher level of belief of their sophistication) than ever before.  Where there is mystery there is margin and the internet has removed much of the mystery about you, your company, your products & services, and your pricing.

If we keep selling into the marketplace the same way that we have in the past, we will get passed up by SMART competitors and passed over by SMART customers.

  • What can we do to keep up?
  • What can we do to get ahead?
  • What can we do to earn the top margins in our ever changing and competitive marketplace?

Below, please find a list of 15 things that you can start to do today to stand out from the crowd, differentiate yourself (and thus your product/service), and command the respect and attention of prospects, customers, and clients:

1.Start a strict regimen of pre-call preparation.

Do your homework before making that call on any executive or decision maker.  Google them, research their industry, read their industry magazines, learn about them and their company. The things that you learn will help you build a platform from which relevant questions and conversation can begin.  In order to have something relevant to offer, have something relevant to ask and something relevant to say!

2.Decision maker or decision influencer?

Clarity on who it is that you are dealing with will help you build the appropriate value proposition.  If you are developing a “champion” or a “flag-bearer” in an account, make sure that the value of your offer speaks to their needs.  Typically, the decision maker is motivated by, and thus will act upon a much different set of criteria than those you met on the way in—sell accordingly.  Never assume what their motivation is.  Always dig, probe, & listen before you diagnose.

3.Make a few phone calls in advance.

I suggest calling anyone who may know anything about an account before actually attending a meeting to get a flavor for what you are about to face.  Knowledge is power—power can be leverage.  In addition, if there are to be several people in the session, I suggest calling as many of them as possible in advance to discover or uncover any issues or expectations.

4-Speak the customer’s language.

We tend to present our value propositions in a language that is filled with our industry words.  The problem?  The customer doesn’t know your industry like you do so a “disconnect” or confusion can occur.  I suggest that you record your value propositions, presentations, conversations, and questions as often as possible.  Get these recordings in the hands of non-industry people and get their opinion.  You might be surprised that the reason you are not closing enough sales is that the door to understanding has never been opened due to a language barrier.

5-Read, learn, grow!

Commit to reading a book every month on how to be a better sales professional.  You will be amazed at the new moves that you will adopt for your sales success.  In addition, read at least 2-3 business or industry magazines every month.  You will learn things that you did not know.  This can add to your confidence and, if you figure out ways to use this knowledge to differentiate you from the crowd (adding value to your customers) it will add to your commission check!

6-Be the quarterback of your sales efforts.

Someone must call the plays.  Make sure that on every interaction with prospects, customers, and clients you clearly define the purpose of the call and stick to it.  When the call purpose is met, clearly identify next steps as well as who is responsible for what.  You guide the timelines, you run the plays, and you call the shots.  The result will be getting to yes faster. (as well as getting to NO faster…see next item.)

7-Ask for the yes once you’ve earned it-but don’t be afraid of the no.

Get out on occasion to drive your pipeline business further along towards a yes knowing that the result will most likely be a few fresh no’s.  Is this a bad thing?  Absolutely not! Stop wasting time on those who can not or will not buy from you.  A full pipeline of no’s is worse than no pipeline at all.  The time you invest on qualifying OUT the non-buyers will be well spent once it’s re-invested in prospecting for those who can and will say YES!

8-Get a coach or a mentor.

This sales game can be tough.  Having someone to bounce ideas off and to strategize with will give you a leg up on the competition.  Think your good enough to fly solo.  Think again!  Even Tiger Woods has a coach or two on his team.

9-Make the CLOSE a natural conclusion to your professional sales process.

Don’t let the “closing” part of your sales cycle be a surprise to your customer.  Don’t shy away from it either.  Your customer should know that you are there to do business.  In order to earn their business, you will have to learn to ask in such a way that it is less painful for both you and the customer.  Right now, sit down and write 5 closing questions that transition you from the presentation and negotiation to the action phase of the sales cycle.  When you have them written, ask them each aloud 100 times until they become less mysterious and thus, natural.

10-Talk Benefits rather than Features.

The customer does not buy quality, service, reliability, innovation, integration, knowledge, experience, teamwork, or the other features that you are tossing out there in an attempt to differentiate your company.  They only buy what those things can do for them do what it is that want to accomplish.  The sooner you start talking about what they GET rather than what it does, the sooner you begin to earn greater margin.

11-Ask them what will happen if they don’t…..?

Attempt to attach a cost or a price to in-action.  When you prospect and customers say they are “staying the course with the way they currently do things” you need to help them understand that continuing to do what they are currently doing will only get them more of what they are currently getting.  If (and this is a big if) you have attached a PAIN to their current situation (from their point of view), then you can attach a FEAR of the future.  Your product or service at that point becomes the cure to the PAIN and thus, a peace of mind to the FEAR.  This is called a solution, and it is worth more than what your competitor is selling.

12-Don’t lie—PERIOD!

The word character is not used enough in professional sales.  It needs to be.  This world of Google has opened all of our kimonos so there are very few secrets anymore.  Often your customer will ask a question that they know the answer to just to qualify your character.  You must pass the 1st time because you won’t get a second shot.  (Remember, they are more aware of their options today) Customers pay more for character and trust—count on it!

13-Quid-Pro-Quo

This Latin term that means “something for something” or “this for that” should be paid close attention to in your dealing with customers.  It works both ways.  If you are looking for forward movement in the sales cycle or an introduction to others to help you get it, practice quid pro quo from your end first.  Give to get.  Give a referral, get movement.  Give an introduction to a lead; get an introduction further into the customer’s circle of influence.  Add value first; get things you value in return.  On the flip side we need to understand that when a customer asks us to jump through hoops for them (put together a demo, draw me up an analysis of the benefits, etc.) it is only fair that we now can ask for something in return from them.  Example:  “We will put together a demonstration of the software, customized to your needs as you requested.  If the software performs and meets all of the specifications that we discussed, will you be prepared give us a commitment to move ahead with the purchase that day?”

14-Never make a call without a purpose

In order to be the most productive with your time and the time of your prospects, customers and clients, have a clear purpose for each of your calls.  Don’t visit the customer without the express purpose of bringing something of value to the table or moving the sales cycle forward.  Don’t make a call to “just check in” some other nonsense.  If you don’t take your call seriously, why should they?  By being able to clearly state the purpose of your call and sticking to it, you will become a professional worthy of investing time and money with.

15-Look sharp!

If your product or service is pretty similar to that of your competitions, the little things will often be the deciding factors when deciding who to go with and how much to pay. Don’t underestimate the fact that people initially form a perception about you and your professionalism based upon appearance before you ever get a chance to open your mouth.  You want a higher price?  Look the part!  (Use an iron…it’s becoming a lost art!)

These 15 points are a good start to get you heading towards higher margins and thus, better commissions.  You can see that there are no tricks and no shortcuts.  Simply applying more in the areas of focus, self discipline, commitment, and a customer focused approach will change the customer’s perception of value regarding you and thus, your company, product or service.

-Gerry Layo, CEO Sales Coach International