Pop Quiz!

PopQuiz1

Are you on track to hit your end-of-year sales goal?

True or False:  Sales goals are typically set by the company and should be raised each year according to the previous year’s results.  FalseQuotas are set by the company and tend to be somewhat “detached” from the individual goals of the salesperson.  Too often, company leaders and sales managers feel that the salespeople on their teams do not buy into the goal that they have been given.  Why?  Because it is not their goal!  Instead, the sales number (the goal) is one that has been decided without the input of the salesperson and thus, lack of buy-in is inevitable.  In order to really accomplish GREAT things in the goal setting process in your organization, first, find out what it is that your salespeople truly would like to accomplish.  This may be a financial goal or a personal goal such as a home, car, or vacation that can be accomplished with increased commissions.  Now, together, figure out what needs to change in their daily efforts (and thus, results) in order to hit the commission goal. This takes time and effort on both the part of the manager and the salesperson (just like figuring out your customer’s goals).  But when both the salesperson and the sales manager are clear on the WHAT is the goal, together they are bought-in  and can “put up with” almost any of the HOW it is to be accomplished.  It is the difference between pushing someone towards YOUR goal (quota) or pulling them towards THEIR goals (rewards).  One is a lesson in futility (hard work) and the other is good business practice.

True or False:  Goals are something that are to be set to gauge your success every year.  False.  Your goals are a “track on which to run” your race-be it a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual, or lifetime race!  Your goals are you life plan.  Your goals are personal to you and your success-not a gauge as to whether or not you are.  Year after year, studies have discovered that the most successful business people of our time have a few things in common.  The most common characteristic or trait is that each of them has clearly defined, written goals by which they lead their lives.  It has been said that you miss 100% of the targets that you do not aim at.  Setting goals allows you to set individual targets for your success in many areas of your life.  If, at the end of the year, you find that your sales goals have not been reached, an appropriate inventory of what happened and what did not happen is in order.  However, if you wait until the end of the year, you will find that, more often than not, you will have fallen short.  Goals need to be “checked-in-on” regularly (at least monthly) to make sure that you are on track.  If you are not, adjustments need to be made to the way that you are running the race.  Those adjustments can come in the form of attitude, skills, activity, and even moving the finish line.  Set goals with your people and make those goals a living, breathing, real-time plan that you will visit regularly and constantly strive to achieve throughout the year.

True or False:  Goals should be broken down into quarterly and even monthly.  True!  An amazing thing happens whenever there is a deadline!  Most companies radically increase sales production in the final quarter or every year.  Some companies greatly increase their sales results in the final weeks of every quarter each year.  And some companies greatly increase their numbers of closed sales during the final few days of every month.  Why is this? Customers don’t buy differently at the end of the month, quarter, or year do they?  Results increase because there is a deadline–a measurement of success specific to each of these companies and their sales cycles that is determined by not only the results themselves, but also by when the results are accomplished.  In American football, every team can run a series of plays called “the Two-Minute Drill” in which a team can go the entire length of the field inside the Two-Minute time frame.  It is a thing of beauty to see a team operate this drill in harmony and accomplish things in a matter of less than two minutes that they had been working hard all game to accomplish in much longer timeframes.  What is it that both sales teams and sports teams GET when there is a deadline?  A sense of urgency!  By making sure that your team’s sales goals are set up in such a way that deadlines are looming on a regular basis, you build an inherent sense of urgency into the attitudes and daily activities of each person on your team.  Because of this sense of urgency, complacency will become non-existent.  Because of this sense of urgency, salespeople ask better questions, run better plays, anticipate the moves the defense (customer) will make, and in turn, will score more frequently.  The result, a much greater chance of answering the first question asked above (Are you on track for your year-end sales goals?) with a YES!

The Dog Days of Summer Are Here!

Dog Days of Summer

We 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.  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!!

It’s TIME!!!

Image result for evaluateOK….June is almost in the books and we will officially done with the first half of 2018!  It’s time to take a look at your progress thus far and to make some adjustments where necessary.  It’s time to evaluate your half-time performance and to plan your second half approach.

If you are not tracking on your goals or close to where you need to be on your progress, you are going to have to step up and make some changes.  Why?

“If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting!”

The things that you have done thus far have produced results that YOU deem to be unworthy of the effort.  So, I guess it stands to reason that the efforts need to be increased or refocused!  If you choose not to, there is a fair certainty that you will be considerably further from your annual goal come this December.

Now, you may be saying (in fact, I can almost hear it) “But Gerry…I am already working my butt off!  How much more can I do?”  I did not specifically suggest that you had to do MORE, but you definitely need to reassess if what it is that you are doing (and how you are doing it) is effective to meet your desired results—the lack of which would already indicate they are NOT.

Remember, simply doing more of what it is that you are doing today will not always get you better results, but it may.  Remember, doing what you do differently than you do it today may not get you better results, but it may.  Doing what you do BETTER will always get you better results—guaranteed.  The trick is to “crack the code” on what BETTER means!

Keep in mind that the results that you get are often due in part to how it is that you think and what you believe to be true about yourself.  Your attitude plays a major role in the results that you get because it drives your belief.

Make an IMPACT!

fine image of classic 3d newton cradle background

One of the main areas that I have found myself coaching salespeople the past few months is IMPACT.  I contend that, although it is important to be the best that you absolutely can be in every interaction with a prospect, customer, or client, you do not have to be the best that they have ever seen.  You don’t have to be the smoothest talker.  You don’t have to be the silver-tongued devil that has an answer for every question. You do, however, need to make an IMPACT!  What does that mean?  What questions might you ask yourself before the sales call to ensure that an IMPACT can be made? After some thought, I have chosen to define IMPACT as a combination of the following areas:

I-IMPRESSION  “What impression do I want them to have of me?”  There are a variety of impressions that prospects, customers, and clients can have of us based upon any interaction.  Unfortunately, not all of them are positive!  But, with proper preparation, we can focus on doing the things necessary to “stack the deck” in our favor.  The best sales professionals today are very cognizant of the customer perspective and thus, very aware of every move they make, how they look, how they prepare, and how they show.  Here are a few examples (both positive and negative) of impressions that we can leave:

  • Professional UN-Professional
  • Respectful DIS-Respectful
  • Interested Deal Focused
  • Resource Salesperson
  • Solution Problem
  • Investment Cost

M-MEMORABLE “What do I want them to remember when I’m gone?” One of the keys to making an IMPACT is being memorable in the minds of your prospect, customer, or client. This often comes from making strong statement utilizing your best “power phrases.” Every solid sales professional has their “go-to” phrases or “word-tracks” that truly drive home the desired point. It is often this phrase that makes an IMPACT. Here is an example of one of my favorites I’ve used for years when faced with a customer with price concerns:

  • “I understand that you can get a similar product/service from one of my competitors at a lower initial price. In fact, if what you pay is your main deciding factor, you most likely will not do business with me. However, if your concern is more about what you get for what you pay, then you will do business with nobody but me!”

P-P.P.O.D.  “What Positive Perception Of Difference will I make such that they will go out of their way and/or pay a premium to do business with me?”  The best salespeople are always attempting to create differentiation in the marketplace between themselves and the competition.  They furthermore realize that differentiation comes from their actions as well as their words.  They create a positive perception of difference through the way they dress, the way they ask questions, the way they “brand” themselves before, during, and after the sale, the way they present their opportunity, or the way they ask for the business.  The best realize that typically it is the companies that “stand out” that have the highest return of customers and thus they look to “stand out” as well.

A-ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN  “What do I need to know in order to increase my chances of winning the sale?”  The best sales professionals realize that the strongest sentence that they can put “out there” to a prospect, customer, or client ends in a question mark!  While their competitors are out there showing up and throwing up on sales calls, they are probing, digging, inquiring, going deeper, diagnosing, and finding out their customers highest value needs and motivators so that they can provide the best solution.  Defined as “The Shortest Course on Selling,” the art of asking questions and listening does more to make an IMPACT than anything else you could ever hope to do!

  • “If you ask the right questions and truly listen to your customer’s answers, they will explain your business to you!”
  • “Nobody ever LISTENED themselves out of a sale!” 

C-CHARACTER (Have one-Don’t BE one!) “How will I increase the perceived value of my product/service through my rock-solid character?”  It has been said that a well-rounded character is square in all his/her dealings. Selling is defined as a transfer of trust. Sales pros need to make sure that transfer is made early and often throughout the sales process.  That doesn’t happen by speaking negatively about the competition, a prospect’s prior decision, your internal sales support, or anyone else.  It also does not come from speaking about your customer’s competitor that you sell to.  What it does come from is sincere professionalism in every aspect of your interaction with prospects, customers, and clients (even behind the scenes.)

  • “Character is what happens when nobody is looking!”

T-TOUCH ‘EM  “How will I make sure that they know me beforehand, hear me during, and don’t forget me afterwards?”  It has often been said, “In business, it is not what you know but who you know.”  The best sales professionals believe, “It is not who I know but who knows me that counts in business!”  Companies spend millions of marketing dollars to “brand” themselves and create a “top of consciousness” in the minds of their customers through a variety of ways that they touch them.  Today’s top producers realize that the best way that can assure that their prospects, customers, and clients think of them when a need to buy comes about is through frequent, repetitious contact before, during, and after the initial sale.  These touches come in many forms and include a combination of personal contact, letters, e-mails, faxes, mailed articles, postcards, value-add newsletters, suggestions, referrals, reference requests, thank you cards, holiday/anniversary cards, and many, many more.  A word of caution, however, is to make sure that you don’t do what everyone else is doing. (See PPOD above!)

By making an IMPACT On your prospects, customers, and clients in all you do, you stand a better chance as a sales professional to earn their business now and forever.  Contrary to popular current books in the marketplace, the little things do matter so sweat them all!  Remember, there is a big burden on you to have to be the best and only one can achieve that.  But every sales professional has the ability (and duty) to make an IMPACT!  Happy hunting!

The Power of YOU!

Power of YOU

This week finds me keeping multiple balls in the air (more so than usual!).  While I’m adept at the juggling act, sometimes keeping things simple results in the most effective of outcomes.  Inspired by simplicity, YOU are the focus of my newsletter article today.

If I was challenged, as I often am, to name the most important thing on which to focus when looking for improvement in sales results, my answer would not be one that you might expect.  There are those of you out there that would most likely think that my answer would fall in some tactical skill category such as being prepared, prospecting, goal setting, closing, asking better questions, listening, or something else along those lines.

There are others of you that would assume that my answer might revolve around the amount of activity that you go through every day.  Again, tactically speaking, these areas would cover cold calls, client visits, touch campaigns, and other activity necessary for increased results.

But, if I was really pressed to name the ONE thing that moves you from mediocrity to WOW it would come down to a 3 letter word.—YOU!  Yes you!

You see, every time you close a deal and your customers make a purchase, the first purchase that they make EVERY TIME is you!  They have to buy into the fact that you are a professional and deserve their business.  They have to buy into the fact that you CARE about them and their needs more than you and yours.  They have to buy into your passion, your focus, and your advice. Your product or service is secondary.

So, my advice, do not underestimate the Power of YOU.  Invest in yourself.  Give yourself the time you need to learn, grow, live your life and your passions. Take the best care of YOU that you can.  When we take time out of our busy schedules/juggling acts and we take care of ourselves, it actually enables us to be better.  We are better sales people, we are better friends, spouses, partners, parents, siblings, etc.  Be YOUR best every day.  Sometimes, it’s really that simple.

10 Ways Salespeople BLOW Sales

Happy smiling business man standing out of the crowd with other people hiding their face behind a question mark sign.

Most salespeople are NOT tough acts to follow!  Most salespeople are simply moving through the profession of sales rather than working hard at it to earn their fortune.  In fact, in my opinion, 80% of salespeople UNDER PERFORM!  Here’s TEN reasons why:

1.  They’re focused on SELLING rather than HELPING THE CUSTOMER BUY.

The typical salesperson comes into almost every sales interaction with the same intent: To tell the prospect as much as they can about the product or service that they offer and then get them to buy it.  It’s no wonder that customers hide behind voicemail and screen us out!  Who wants to go through that?

2.  They have very little, if any, pre-call planning.

We wouldn’t expect our attorneys to go into court on trial day winging it, would we?  We don’t expect our doctors to go into the operating room without a plan.  We assume that the sports teams that we watch have a game plan that they execute for every opponent, don’t we?  If we wouldn’t expect any of these professionals to “fly by the seat of their pants” when it comes time to earn their pay, why in the world do we allow our salespeople to do it?

3.  They act and sound just like everyone else.

Most salespeople are NOT tough acts to follow.  And yet, most salespeople go through the same routine.  Most salespeople come in and try to “make a sale” (see #1 above) and hope that a customer appears.  SMART sellers come in and first “create a buyer” (ask questions and listen) and thus, the sale becomes the result.  Make it (your sales call) about them (the buyer) and you will stand out!

4.  They do not LISTEN to the customer.

The customer has all of the answers as to why they want to buy.  Sometimes they are aware of these answers and sometimes they are not.  If you ask enough of the right questions and ARE WILLING to truly listen to the customer’s answers, they will often times explain your business to YOU!  By the way, “Listening is different than waiting to talk!”

5.  They try to sell to someone who cannot buy!

Qualification of the prospect is one of the top priorities of sales professionals.  Often it is those that are hardest to get a meeting with that are the true decision makers.  And yet, salespeople meet with and try to sell to those who cannot write the check!  All of their correspondence, all of their time, all of their efforts, and their proposal has been geared toward the wrong people. Find out who can say yes and spend your time courting them.

6.  They bring NOTHING of value to the table.

Salespeople today need to understand that simply being there to take the order is no longer enough.  Anybody can do that!  A true sales professional in today’s marketplace needs to become a valuable asset to the customer by adding value at every opportunity. Giving information is no longer the main job of the salesperson.  Nowadays, if you don’t bring something to the table that will help the customer see that you are a vital component to their success, you can and will be replaced often.

7.   They are unaware of who (or what) they are up against.

The competition for a prospect or customer’s time, attention, and money is greater now than it ever has been.  We not only are up against competing companies and vendors in the marketplace, we are also up against things like internal competition, the current vendor, internal pressure to fund something else (another project), and indifference (no action).  When we are up against others, we need to be aware of who they are, how they sell, what they say, what they offer, and what it costs.  Getting blindsided by any competition is a direct result of lack of preparation (you need to know what your going to run into) and a failure to listen to the things both said and un-said by our prospects and customers.

8.  They steer the conversation to price and then complain about price sensitivity.

This is a big one.  Price seems to be come up more often and sooner in every sales conversation today.  Look at the buying environment today with customers having immediate access to information about product and price on the web and you can understand why price is (and always has been) an issue.  But YOU don’t have to be the one that brings it up!  Be prepared for price concerns, but don’t lead with your wallet!  The less you focus on the cost or the price, the less they will.  The more you focus on the benefits of ownership, the more they will.  And the more they focus on that, the more they will be willing to pay.

9.  They don’t have enough opportunity in the pipeline.

It has been said that the best sales strategy is a full pipeline of business.  What does this mean?  When salespeople have a lot of prospects that are in their pipeline of business, they make moves that position themselves and their companies in more of a positive, confident light.  When every meal depends upon every deal, the customer is fully in control—and you are NOT!

10.  They’re in the wrong job!

The profession of selling is for sales professionals.  Sales pros have certain characteristics and traits that are necessary for sustained sales success.  Too often we have people in the position of salesperson by default!   The position of sales professional for any company must be one that is filled with great attention to detail.  It used to be said that “any idiot can be a salesman!”  That cannot be further from the truth today.  We are in a world of hyper-competitiveness.  Only the best will make the cut!  Others need to move on and fill other roles—or go play the role of salesperson on the competition’s team.

Add up your scorecard.  How many of these areas are YOU (or your people) guilty?

There is a rule to winning:  Don’t SUCK!  If you are guilty of three or more of the areas above, get your act back together, pay attention, and make the changes necessary.  Sharpen up your skills, take control of your actions, and start to fight a better fight.

When is it OK to Fail?

Stressed businesswoman in the office

It is okay to fail when you have given it your very best effort, when you have played the game to win.    It is okay to fail when you have given it all you’ve got, leaving nothing in reserve. It is okay to fail when you have spent yourself in the effort.  It is okay to fail when you have gone way beyond what is expected of you.  It is okay to fail when you take the long shot gamble.  It is okay to fail when you try something new, something for which you have no experience or background. It is okay to fail after you have gone the extra mile.  It is okay to fail when failing doesn’t mean quitting, when it doesn’t mean you stop trying.

When is it NOT OK to Fail?

It is not okay to fail when you haven’t given your best effort. You may fail here, but this is not an honorable failure.  It is not okay to fail when you have something left to give, when you keep something in reserve, when you save yourself. You may fail here, but this failure is not acceptable when spending yourself may have meant a different outcome.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t prepared yourself for the game, when you haven’t done your homework. You may fail here, but lack of preparedness is not an acceptable reason to fail.  It isn’t okay to fail because you have ignored the fundamentals. And it isn’t okay to fail because you haven’t ignored the fundamentals enough. Sometimes succeeding is built on the fundamentals, and sometimes it is built on overcoming the fundamentals. It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t taken the safe shot, and isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t taken the inconceivable long shot.  It isn’t okay to fail when you have only tried to meet the status quo. It isn’t okay to fail because you have simply done what everyone else is doing. It isn’t okay to fail when you have only done what is expected. Conformity is a sure path to failure and to mediocrity. It isn’t okay to fail because you were focused on some big idea and you have ignored the details that make up the execution of that idea. Success is in the idea and in its execution.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t used every resource to win. It isn’t okay to fail because you didn’t ask others for the help that would have made the difference.  It isn’t okay to fail if you don’t learn something from the failure.  It isn’t okay to fail because you quit trying. It isn’t okay to fail because you quit when the road got rough and the effort seemed too much.  It is never okay to fail when there is still time on the clock.  It is never okay to fail to get back up.

Get What You Deserve – By Design!

goal-setting

Goal setting is a term that Sales Professionals tend to hear so often that they can become numb to its power and its strength. In our profession, there are way too many “hacks” out there that basically “let things happen to them” (i.e. playing a “reactive role in their life and profession rather than an “active” role). Often, it’s these same people who sit back and say it wasn’t me, i.e., I am the victim.  They haven’t given a single thought to “goal setting”. “Goal Setting” is a sure way out of the victim mentality and frees you to decide what you want.

Why not try a brand-new approach? Map out the success you want to achieve and go to new heights!

There is no better place to start than to take a look over your shoulder.

  • Did you reach your goals this month/quarter/year?
  • Did you go forward?
  • Did you go backward?
  • Did you go nowhere?
  • Did you make more money, less money?
  • Do you have more accounts, less accounts?
  • How much quality time did you spend with your family?
  • How much focus did you put on your personal fitness?
  • How about your quality of life?

At Sales Coach International we believe in success by design, not chance.  I’m going to give you 7 steps that should be used by sales people, sales managers and professionals all across the board, to design what you want to accomplish.  These steps are a “take-off” from a book I read by Brian Tracy called “Eat That Frog!”

 

  1. You have to clearly decide what you would like to accomplish. Clearly decide what’s going to look different 365 days from today. Clearly decide what it is that you want in your life and your career. Clearly decide what it is you want out of your life. Clearly decide what that change is going to be. Clearly decide what car you are going to drive. Clearly decide what house you will live in. Clearly decide how much money you want to make. Clearly decide what your book of business is going to look like. The key word here “CLEARLY”.  You have to be very specific.  You can’t use words like “bigger” or “better” or “more” or “different”. There are two different types of goals. One is “meaningful specifics” and the other is “wandering generalities”.  It is my experience, most people, if they even attempt to get into goal setting, lean toward the latter. “Wandering Generalities” have a lot of “wants” attached but no “specifics”:  “I want to do better”, “I want to make more money this year”, “I want to lose some weight this year”, “I want to drive a nicer car” etc. These aren’t goals.  You’ve got to CLEARLY decide what it is that you want to accomplish—right down to the details.

 

  1. When you have clearly decided what it is you want to accomplish; write it down. Many people have trouble writing goals down because they are not clear on what it is that they want.  I don’t mean to just find any spot to write these down. I don’t mean to just put it in an email or write it on some Word document that can get lost on your hard drive.  How about this? Get a black Mead composition notebook. On the front 2 lines write “2018 GOALS” and your name. On the top of each page you write down your clear meaningful specific goal. If you don’t write it down, it’s just a dream.  Dreams rarely come true. Goals in writing often do.  Write the goal down as if it already happened ie: I make $____________.  I weigh _________ pounds.  Once you write it down there is a level of commitment that is often missing when you are simply saying it or even just thinking it. Once you seal it in ink, your mind subconsciously starts to go to work on it.  If you don’t write it down, it isn’t going to happen.  It’s that simple.  So, get a notebook and get started!

 

  1. Set a deadline for reaching your goals. There have been many studies that show average business tends to get 65% more results in the 4th quarter than in the previous 3 quarters.  Why is that?  Because there is a self-imposed deadline.  There is a drop-dead date.  There is an “or else” attached to it!  Customers don’t change. Customers don’t change the way they buy; we change the way we sell.  In the fourth quarter, we are more inclined to ask the uncomfortable questions we generally avoid throughout the course of the other 3 quarters.  We impose a sense of urgency on the buying process rather than the customer doing so. Our customers don’t change–WE just operate differently and this happens when we set our goals– when the clock is ticking on our goals.

 

  1. Make a list of everything that needs to happen in order to achieve your goals. What got you here? What did your account base look like this year and how many dollars came in from your A accounts and your B accounts and your C accounts?  How much time do you spend on each one of those?  Where are the revenue streams for your commissions?  Where are the revenue streams for your business?  Where did you mostly spend your time this year?  If you keep doing the same things that got you where you are now, chances are you are going to stay here or, with the marketplace rapidly changing, you might even go backwards.  Can you afford that?  Open up your notebook in which you recorded your goals. On each page you are going to have a goal on the top.  Some of those goals are going to fall into buckets of your professional life. How many sales will you need to make? How much money are you going to make? How much account development are you going to do and how much account service are you going to do? The goal might be more personal such as “quality of life”, “health and fitness” etc. For example, most of you know I am very focused on golf. If there is a change I want to make in my golf game, I write down exactly what I’m going to improve on this year. I write how much I’m going to improve, what my handicap is going to be and how many rounds I’m going to play. I might write how many practice rounds I’m going to have, how many lessons I’m going to take, how many outings I’m going to take with the boys, how many top 100 courses I’m going to play in the country. I could focus on what I’m going to do equipment-wise, what types of lessons I’m going to take or how many putts I’m going to average. As you break a goal down in order to achieve your meaningful specific clear goal, there are many things that can be included.  Write down every single thing that has to happen or has to keep happening in order for you to achieve your goal. Don’t worry about the specific order on this step. We’ll cover that next.

 

  1. Organize your list by priority and sequence and put it into a plan—celebrating your wins along the way. What has to happen first? What happens after that? What is an absolute non-negotiable item that has to happen in order to achieve your goal? What’s going to be the most difficult thing to tackle? I’d probably want to attack that one first. I might have to spend more time on this or read up on it a little. I might have to gain additional training or education. Put some things down and organize that list into a plan.  Now you have a plan.  Break it down into milestones and CELEBRATE these accomplishments along the way! If your goal is to lose 25 pounds, don’t wait until you’ve lost 25 pounds to celebrate.  If you lose 2 or 3 pounds in the first month, be excited about it.  What do I get if I lose 3 pounds that first month? (I suggest it is something other than a cheeseburger—exciting as that may sound!)  What do you get for a personal reward when you land that big account in the first quarter?  What do you get? Celebrate the milestones to give you the fuel to continue the next steps to accomplish your goal.

 

  1. Once your plan is written, start taking immediate action. Don’t hesitate. Don’t over strategize. Don’t polish it up. I don’t care how mediocre the plan is. I’ll choose a person who attacks a mediocre plan with incredible passion, commitment, enthusiasm and drive, any day, over somebody who’s going to sit back, strategize and polish up the plan. Days and months can be wasted in these types of behaviors and before you know it, nothing gets done.  The key is to take fast, instantaneous action on your plan.

 

  1. Commit to do something every day to bring you closer to your goals. This is the “miracle step”.  Take that tiny step every day to bring you closer to what it is you want to accomplish.  If you want to become a stronger sales person this year, you may have set a goal to read 15 books on how to be a better sales person.  That may seem like a daunting task, but reading a couple of paragraphs or a chapter every day certainly is not. Commit to a set time each day. You might have to get up a half hour earlier. These are the things that need to happen, a little step at a time.  Passing on that cheeseburger, or dessert, having a salad instead, these are the little things that will get you towards that weight loss. On average, most people spend only 20 days out of 365 working towards their goals. It’s easy to see that if you were to spend 365 days out of 365 doing little steps, you will surpass most on a regular basis.

 

To recap, the seven steps to follow to go from good to great are:

    1. Be very clear on what it is you want to accomplish.
    2. Make sure that you write it down and think on paper
    3. You are now the project manager for your success and you have to set a deadline for everything that has to happen.
    4. Make a list of everything that must happen in order to achieve your goal.
    5. Organize your list by priority and sequence. Put it into a plan and celebrate your wins along the way.
    6. Take immediate action on your plan. Don’t over strategize.
    7. Commit to do something EVERY single day to get you closer to your goal.

If you follow this road map for successful goal setting, there’s no reason this can’t be your BEST year ever. It won’t happen if you don’t design it! So, pick up your pen and get started today! Design your plan and create the path to go wherever it is you wish to go!

LISTEN UP!!

Girl listening with her hand on an ear

I have written many articles on the importance of preparation, planning, presentation, attitude, prospecting, objection avoidance, leadership, and more in this newsletter.  But there is one thing that runs as a common denominator for all of these topics.  There is one area I need to cover that actually fuels the success of all of the above initiatives.  This is an area that we all take for granted and yet, most of us literally STINK at it.  As salespeople, there is perhaps no more impactful of a skill to have than the skill of effective listening.

We all initially got into sales because we are good talkers, good negotiators, good persuaders, and because we are comfortable when doing all of these things with strangers.  We take courses on, attend seminars regarding, and read books about how to be better at “Getting our Point Across,” “Giving Professional Presentations,” “Overcoming Objections,” and “Power Phrases that Sell.”  We constantly work on better ways to say what we want to say.  We record ourselves on the phones talking and even video ourselves talking/pitching in role-play situations.  Although all of this is important, what I notice getting lost on most salespeople of today is the tried and true art of listening.

I have yet to ever run into a truly top shelf successful salesperson that is not a great listener.  Great salespeople realize that they MUST listen to the prospect/customer because:

  • When they are listening, they are learning about the prospect/customer
  • With more info on the prospect/customer needs, they have a better shot in recommending the proper solutions.
  • What they are listening to are typically the answers to questions that are designed to control the process and lead the prospect/customer toward the benefits or solutions that the salesperson has to offer.
  • When they are listening, they are building trust.
  • When they are listening, the customer is buying into them—They are showing that they care.
  • When they truly listen, the customer will tell them what to say (or ask) next.

I do a lot of training in the area of effective question asking to “open” a customer.  I work on the reasons why we ask the questions that we do and how to best structure and practice those questions beforehand so that they appear very “off the cuff” and centered on the prospect/customer’s specific situation.  However, I do not spend enough time discussing the art of listening to the answers and response strategies.  I can only picture a mindless set of drones out in the marketplace asking a question, checking it off the list, and moving on to the next.  Say it isn’t so!!!!

Enthusiastic Listening

Let’s take a closer look at this term, shall we?  How does one enthusiastically listen?  When you think about that term, what comes to mind for you?  I get a picture in my mind of someone leaning in (edge of their chair), eyes locked on whomever is talking, eyebrows raised, nodding in understanding, hanging on every word, and responding with requests for more.  I see in my minds eye a child listening to an exciting bedtime story for the first time and asking things like “What happened next?” “Who is that?”  “Why did she do that, Mommy?”  “What does he look like, Daddy?” and so on.

In the profession of sales, that same wide-eyed enthusiasm over the words of our prospects/customers may be quite appropriate to a certain degree.  INTERESTED is the word that we are going for here.  I feel that the best way for a prospect/customer to be INTERESTED in you is to be genuinely INTERESTED in them.  The problem is that most of us feel that we have to be INTERESTING!  We feel that we have to speak eloquently, have a solid canned “pitch” that is compelling, and through these tactics, we will win over the hearts and minds of our prospects/customers.  C’mon…. Get over yourself!!  It’s not about you!  It’s about them and their pains, their fears, their desires, and their highest value needs.

By listening enthusiastically, you will show the prospect/customer the greatest respect that you can.  You will show that you care about their needs-not yours.  You will show that you are interested in how to best create a solution for them.  You will show that you are different, that you stand out!  Below are a few tips to help you engage in the art of enthusiastic listening:

  1. Look’em in the eye!  When a prospect/customer is speaking (answering your questions), do your best to look them directly in the eye as much as you can.  It shows that you are focused on their response.  A great tip to help you stay focused intently on them is to pick just one eye and look directly into that.
  2. Use appropriate facial expressions and nods.  Use non-verbal feedback in the form of the occasional nod to show understanding and agreement, a head tilt with brow furrowing to show a lack of understanding (and thus a request for more info), a smile and nod to show clarity and agreement.  Also use winces and other similar facial expressions to show that you feel their pain.  Much can be said without saying a word.  Learn to master this art through practice in front of a mirror.
  3. Lean into the conversation.

There is nothing wrong with leaning into the conversation during particularly intense or emotional points in which pains and fears are being discovered and discussed.  Get on the edge of your chair and show them that you care.

  1. Take notes.

There is a term called “noteworthy” that seems to be appropriate for the purposes of a sales interaction.  By writing down some of the main points of the conversation, you will not only show the prospect/customer that you are listening and that you care, you will also show that what she is saying is worthy of making note of it.  Also, if you write down what they say word-for-word and how they say it (use quotes on these parts) then you will have a tool to use later in the sales process to assist in closing the sale.

  1. Ask follow-up questions with active probing verbs.

An example of some solid follow up questions might be:

  • “Why?”
  • “Can you expand on that?”
  • “Paint me a picture of that.”
  • “Can you give me an example?”
  • “How long has that been the case?”
  • “Have you always felt that way?”
  • “Why do you suppose that is?”

  1. Re-Phrase statements made by the prospect/customer.

When a customer has expressed concerns (another word for pains) regarding a specific issue, show that you truly listened by rephrasing the statement.  Example:

They say: “I am a little worried about how the fluctuating interest rates are going to affect my variable mortgage and also about buying this home in an area which has had several houses sell for under appraised value in the past.”

Salesperson says as a rephrase and a re-cap point: “I understand that your specific concerns are about interest rates and resale value, is that correct?”

**A word of caution here. Too much usage of this tool will appear to be practiced and fake.  It will have a tendency to show the customer that you are merely using a sales technique to create a bond and it will become a turn-off.  Use moderately.

So, in the future, think about that young child listening intently to his/her parent reading Peter Pan for the first time to them.  See if you can see the look in their eyes, the curiosity in their entire demeanor.  Create that same level of enthusiastic curiosity in yourself as you head into your next sales call.  Listening is a skill and one that can be learned.  Tap into as many resources as you can to sharpen this skill and tap into the world of sales success!

Customer Service MAGIC!!!

Customer Service

Customer Service is a dying art!  The average attendee in my seminars, when asked, states that they have had mostly average experiences of customer service in the past month compared to a few horrible experiences and just one fantastic experience.  Tony Alessandra calls these Moments of Mediocrity, Moments of Misery, and Moments of Magic.  It has been my contention that every company has the ability to stand out by focusing on simply striving for the WOW experience that Alessandra calls a Moment of Magic.

Most of us feel that the customer service departments in our companies are responsible for this experience.  While I agree that the customer service professionals on your team do absolutely drive the customer experience, I would like to challenge those of us in the sales side of the business to take a closer look at our role in this process.

Let’s see if we can break down that M.A.G.I.C. into an easy-to-digest (and apply) acronym:

Managing Expectations

The sales process really “tees up” the customer service process by setting up the customer expectations.  Let’s face it; anyone can get anyone to buy anything by telling the buyer whatever they want to hear.  In fact, it is exactly this fact that has given salespeople bad reputations for years.  The true sales professional understands that they seek a customer for life (a client relationship) out of every transaction.  Just as with any relationship, there are expectations that both will have.  It is the salesperson’s job to discover the true expectations of the customer from the onset and to temper those according to true deliverables.  In addition, the sales professional must explain in detail to the customer the role that they must play in the relationship.  With properly discovered and mutually agreed upon expectations set in advance, the customer service experience has been properly arranged in advance so that the customer “knows what they are in for.”   At that point, it is up to the entire organization (every touch point) to EXCEED those expectations!

Assessing Needs

The first and most vital conversations that are held with a customer are done so with the sales professional.  It is during these conversations that we are to gather information in addition to giving it.  We have defined the shortest course on selling for years as “Asking Questions and Listening.”  This process is not important only for the discovery of a potential customer’s hot buttons and motivators which will guide them towards a purchase from us, it also helps us assess their HVNs (Highest Value Needs) so that we may communicate them to our internal customer service teams.

Here is an idea:  Create a form that will allow your salespeople to capture some of the basic HVNs of your new customers.  On the form, simply list categories that are important for the smooth transition from the sales process to the service process.  In addition, capture the communication style of the customer and any pertinent information that will create a strong communication foundation for the service team.  What has been promised?  What does the customer expect?  Where are the potential “landmines that we need to avoid?”  How can we WOW them early in the relationship?  What do we need to know about them personally as well as professionally to best serve them?

Growth vs. Maintenance

There are two ways to look at every interaction that we have with prospects, customers, and clients.  We can simply strive to MAINTAIN our current status, relationship, or loyalty with these folks or we can strive to create GROWTH in these areas with every interaction.  From a sales perspective, it is my belief that there should never be such a thing as a MAINTENANCE call!  The purpose of front line sales reps is to GROW the customer relationship, GROW the trust that a customer has in you, GROW the value that the customers perceives in you, and to GROW their account within the organization, thus GROWING your company.  When your goal is simply to MAINTAIN, there is very little preparation necessary.  There is very little need for pre-call planning, practice, or customer focused thought.  Here’s a good drill: Write down the two words above (Growth and Maintenance).  Under each word, write down 10 things that you need to DO to either Maintain or Grow an account.  I bet the list is longer and requires more action under GROWTH!

Interest – Show one-before, during, and after the sale

As a sales professional, if you were to be judged and compensated on the overall length and value of your relationships with your customers and clients, I would bet that your actions would be more focused.  We are all guilty of “moving on” from a relationship in the mind of the customer.  The courting stage is full of surprise, passion, excitement, and over-the-top communication when we have the prospective customer in the pipeline.  Early into the customer phase, we will stay in touch, make the occasional call to see how everything is going with our product or service, and do some of the things necessary to grow the customer (one-time, price focused buyer) into a client (lifetime, value focused buyer).  However, it has been said that familiarity breeds contempt.  Too often, salespeople tend to lose interest in an account after a while and in doing so create the perception that they are taking the relationship for granted.  Although you may think this way, it is really not important what you think—the customer/client is the king.  Good drill here:  Identify your top 10 accounts right now.  Next, schedule a face to face meeting with each one of them within the next 60 days.  The purpose of that meeting is to reconnect; “to renew your vows,” and to get into their hearts by attempting to re-visit their business needs (they most likely have changed since you were dating.)

Communication

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why customers get fed up and leave is a lack of true communication on the part of the company with whom they are doing business.  Of course, people don’t do business with companies—they do business with people.  Think about the world that we live in today.  Phones are answered by machines that guide us through a seemingly unending series of “press this” or “enter that” before we can get a chance to communicate.  Our email boxes are so loaded with spam that we have a tendency to DELETE courteous correspondence before it is read.  We are forcing our customers to websites to interact with us.  We are using “self-checkout” lines at grocery stores.  What in the world happened to good old-fashioned one-to-one communication?  When we survey customers as to what it is that they are looking for in the “service experience,” the answers rarely, if ever, mention cost effectiveness, efficiency, and electronically based communication.  Instead, they say they are looking for knowledgeable help, follow-through, basic courtesies, dedicated attention, feedback, empathy, and respect.  This begins with the sales professional.

As a salesperson, how can you create all of this and still be focused on getting new “fish in the boat?”  It’s not easy—especially on your own.  Don’t fall into the trap of keeping others in the company away from your accounts.  Furthermore, don’t micro-manage every detail of the customer’s interaction with your company.  Instead, create a team to deliver consistent Moments of Magic.

Using the acronym above, turn “inward” toward your support staff, your delivery staff, your installers, your customer service team, your help desk staff, and the accounts receivable staff for assistance.  First of all, set and manage their expectations of you and what it is that you can and will do with the customer on the front end and throughout the relationship.  Next, assess their needs.  What is it that they need from you in order to best deliver on your promises?  Next, look for ways to grow their knowledge of the customer, the sales process, and the service expectations of the customer.  In addition, try growing your knowledge of their position and what it is that they go through every day to meet your customers ever changing needs.  Next, show an interest in them.  As a salesperson, you try to spend time with top accounts in the interest of building a relationship.  Why?  So they continue to buy from you and never leave.  Create a plan to do the same with your inside team.  Spend time with them.  Show an interest in who they are and where it is that they come from.  Meet their families.  “DO” for them and they will line up to “DO” for you and your customers.  Finally, learn how to best communicate with them on a regular basis.  If you communicate with them via email only, you will eventually create a disconnection.  Try to develop the habit of the regular “team huddle.” Regular, value-add communication on the inside breaks down the walls and allows for creative juices to come up with the best ways to take care of your customers!

The profession of sales is for sales professionals but you need to know that, as a sales professional, the customer experience is something that demands your attention and commands your focus!  Sell Smart all the way through and you will find yourself with a never-ending stream of referrals and leads generated by over-the-top loyal fans on the outside (customers) as well as the inside of your business!