The Top 10 Things That Top Sales People Do

Shot of two businessmen shaking hands

Top Sales Pros are a special breed of cat.  They engage in decidedly different activities on a regular basis.  Although they walk and talk the same at first glance, they do very unique things every day that, in and of themselves are not overly special but, when combined, these things create a vortex of success that attracts the best customers, the most referrals, the strongest relationships and the highest commissions!

I have been fortunate to be a sales professional for many years that others have placed in the “Top Sales Pro” category.  In addition, I have the pleasure of working with many top sales pros (and many more on the other end of the spectrum) every year in my business as a speaker and sales coach.  In doing so, I have witnessed some of the best practices that are consistent among only the best.  The 10 things that I have compiled below are not the only things that these Heavy Hitters do, but they are, in my opinion, the most important:

1. They Take Full Responsibility

The Best of the Best never place blame on others for their failure or misfires.  They realize that the only one responsible for their success or failure is the person that they stare at in the mirror every morning.  By accepting responsibility for everything, they NEVER become the victim of competition, market circumstances, pricing, or any other issues that are attacking their competition that whine, complain, and sit around waiting for the next big bad wolf.

2. They Guard Their Attitudes with Their Lives

The Top Producers understand that their Attitude is their most important asset to their success and they do everything they can to make sure they bolster it and protect it.  They never hang around with those who choose to place blame, point fingers, complain, and bellyache.  They go out of their way to associate with winners and successful people.  Although they may get invitations to the pity parties, they never choose to attend. In addition, these cats NEVER feel that they know it all.  In fact, they always seek other’s opinions, knowledge, and experience.  They believe anything is possible and you know what…most of the time, they are right!

3. They Feed Their Brains-Every Day

The Best of the Best did not just wake up one day on the top of the heap.  They actually worked hard to feed their brains the things that it needs to grow.  They realize that the marketplace never stands still.  They realize that customers needs will always change and they choose to stay ahead of the curve.  Consequently, they read books, articles, and reports in the areas that demand their attention.  They constantly “sharpen their axes” in the areas of salesmanship, customer service, empathy, and differentiation. They seek to become an expert in their field by increasing their knowledge every day on purpose.

4. Plan-Prepare-Practice

The Top Producers always seem to have a plan.  It all starts with major clarity on their goals.  They are very clear on the WHY so the WHAT and the HOW become their focus.  The Heavy Hitters go into every call with a purpose and a higher level of preparation.  They have run through all the “what-if” scenarios.  They have thought through, written down, and practiced the questions that they will ask.  They have mentally run through everything from the customer’s prospective.  They are prepared to “open” the customer more effectively and practiced at transitioning to the “close” of the sale.  They know the solid IMPACT statements and questions at the right time because they plan them, prepare them, and practice them ALL the time.

5. They Brand Themselves in Their Marketplace 

The Cream of the Selling Crop make sure that they are “known-for” something in the marketplace.  They create a buzz about who they are and what they know or do by becoming visible to those who may use their product or service.  They realize that being a vendor is a tough gig because vendors are a dime a dozen, unless the customer only wants to pay a nickel.  The Best of the Best want to be known as the EXPERT. They do the things necessary to position themselves in the marketplace as THE CHOICE rather than A CHOICE.  They take the time to write articles and have them published in magazines and newsletters that their customers read.  They get out of their comfort zones and look to speak at industry events that their customers attend.  They constantly and consistently “touch” their prospects, customers, and clients in a variety of creative and value-add ways to ensure top of consciousness in the minds of the buyers.  Top Pros always seek to create “Only Me” value to the sale.

6. They are Willing to Lose

All too often, most salespeople don’t take the risk of asking for the YES because they are afraid to hear the NO.  The Top Sales Pros understand that they are in the NO taking business.  They also understand that their success is highly dependant upon their willingness to “crash and burn” in failure.  Jeffery Gitomer once sated that “Most people won’t risk because they think they fear the unknown.  The real reason that they won’t risk is because they lack the preparation and education that breeds the self confidence (self-belief) to take a chance.”  The great Wayne Gretzky once said that “You miss 100% of the shots that you never take.”  And so it is with the best salespeople:  They get out in front and risk it all for themselves, for the customer, and for their career because they know that most of their competition will STOP when the pressure of the potential loss gets too high.

7. They Recognize Opportunity and Take ACTION Faster

Top Sales Professionals do not get more opportunities than all the rest.  It just seems that way because they are always on “high receive” looking for it.  They put themselves in situations where opportunity tends to be present.  They understand that opportunity at first can look like problems, challenges, or adversity.  They further understand that CHANGE is often at the base of opportunity.  They realize that this is true from their perspective and from the customers-and thus, their lies the opportunity. They don’t hesitate. They don’t sit around strategizing.  They take action!  When most people are wondering if it will work, the Top Sales Professionals are getting the awards for getting it done!  Events get attended with different purposes.  Articles get read with different eyes.  Conversations get heard with different ears.

8. They are a Resource

Top Producers are the go-to people for their customers.  They have the answers to their customers’ questions and the solutions to their problems.  They realize that the world is full of “Takers” that will come in and “take” the customer’s time, “take” the customer’s order, and “take” the customer’s money, but rarely, if ever, add anything of value to the relationship.  Top Producers realize that, in order to continually be valuable to the customer, they need to become more than a vendor.  They need to know the customer’s world as well or better than they know theirs. The Best of the Best always “bring something to the table” that changes the outlook of the customer and makes them think or perform in different ways.  The Top Pros are there for more than the order; they are there through thick and thin, providing the value of their expertise and knowledge to those whom he cares about the most-his/her customer.

9. They Take Time to Re-Charge

The Heavy Hitters do a lot of things that most salespeople will not do.  This takes time, energy, passion, commitment, and focus.  All of the results that they get come from hard-work and dedication to the job.  The Best of the Best not only know when to do these things, they also know when to “shut it down” and re-fuel.  Even the fastest cars (the ones that are winning) in Nascar races have to make their occasional pit-stop to re-fuel and get ready for the next leg of the race.  They cannot continue to win the race unless they do.  So it is with Top Salespeople.  In order to keep winning the race of professional sales, they need to have a quality of life outside the selling marketplace.  The Best of the Best know that the only reason to be in this game (sales) is to have a better life and more of it!  We find that these cats take longer/better vacations, schedule more time with their families, dig deeper into “outside work” passions/hobbies, and overall get more out of life than those who “work the grind.”  They realize that enjoyment and passion are synonymous with Success and if too much WORK goes into one area over another, the enjoyment and the passion start to fade.

10. They Take What They Do Very Seriously Without Taking Themselves Too Serious

The Best of the Best in sales realize that they are in a profession. Just like all professionals, there are expectations that customers hold them to.  A doctor has expectations that not only will she have a good bedside manner, but that she will know her area of expertise to such a degree that human lives may be placed in her care.  A lawyer has expectations to know not only the law (today’s law) but to also know everything else about his area of expertise such that success or failure at the hands of a jury is entrusted to him.  And so it is with sales professionals:  The Top Pros know that The Profession of Sales is for Sales Professionals.  As professionals, they know that the 9 areas that I have listed above require their constant attention.  They realize that the solutions that they can and do provide for their customers can change lives and affect so many.  And yet, with all of that in mind, they go into the battle each day with a light heart and a sound attitude knowing that they will hear no.  They realize that having FUN is a vital part of the game and that most people would rather do business with a friend than with a salesperson.  And so, they strive to be light hearted and heavily focused to gain the trust of the people with whom they choose to engage.

It has been said that Success Leaves Clues. Hopefully these success strategies of the Top Sales pros will give you some clue as to where you can get back on track to superstardom in the profession of selling.

Getting out of your Comfort Zone—SHAKE Things Up!

out of comfort zone

There comes a time in every sale professional’s life that they get into cruise control.  They simply get into a mode of operation that finds them grinding through the same activities day in and day out.  This may be something that they have gotten into consciously or on purpose but more often it is a state at which they have arrived quite by accident.

There are several reasons that one gets into this Comfort Zone.  Maybe they are happy where they are, maybe they have too much going on to even think about trying something new (or at least that’s what they think) or, maybe they are coming off a great sales month and have decided to “take a breather” to enjoy their success.  Perhaps they have fallen into a routine of “meeting management’s minimum activity requirements, (“Hey, I made my calls and filed my reports!”)  Perhaps they feel that trying something new will increase their chances of failure and will cause more work for them.  Maybe they are too busy taking care of customers or simply feel tired, lazy, or misdirected.

Whatever the reason, or excuse, the dreaded Comfort Zone is a dangerous place for a sale professional to be.  It is a place where Maintenance is the goal and Growth is the stranger.  It is the place where Goals have been forgotten and Dreams have been eroded.  This is no place for a growth oriented sales professional to be!

Is a Comfort Zone a bad thing?  I guess that depends upon who you are and what you want out of your career and your life.  Most people get into the profession of selling based upon an earning potential that is sometimes without limitations.  The top performers among all sales professionals in the marketplace today are consistently looking for ways to improve and grow their results.  And even they can sometimes find themselves in cruise control mode!  For sales professionals, this is a BAD thing!

What need to happen to SNAP out of this Comfort Zone?  You need to S.H.A.K.E. things up a bit!  What does S.H.A.K.E. mean?

S-Set or Revisit Your Goals for the Year

It is my belief that when a salesperson gets too comfortable with the status quo, the main reason is that they have lost sight of their goals.  Each and every year it is imperative that salespeople take the time to set their goals for the upcoming year.  Why?  We are in a career that demands self-discipline and committed action. Therefore, we must decide what it is that we want to accomplish each year in our business and personal lives.  Our goals must be clear and concise rather than wandering and vague.  They must be written down and have deadlines (or lifelines-if you prefer) assigned to them.

If you find yourself working within your Comfort Zone, you need to re-visit these goals.  You need to remind yourself what it is that you really want to accomplish (to GET) out of this year!  There is an ancient Eastern proverb that says something like this; “When one is aware of the why, they can deal with almost any of the how.”  So, refocus yourself on your goals on this year so that you can get back to the business of working towards those things instead of just working.

H-Have a Solid Game Plan

Before you go rushing off towards a new (or re-committed to) goal, you must first have a clear plan of what to do—as well as what NOT to do.  Think of all of the things that need to occur in order to accomplish the goal.  What needs to happen?  What needs to happen this month, next month, next quarter, etc. What needs to “go on the back-burner? Make a list. Next, organize your list into a plan by priority and sequence.  Understand that there will be obstacles.  Understand that every plan will have potential unforeseen roadblocks that will come up.  Try your best to identify as many of them as you can beforehand with a contingency plan to work your way through them or around them.  No excuses, no blame!  If there is a game plan (a track on which to run) than you have a much better shot at accomplishing what it is that you set out to do.

A-Arrive Earlier to the Game

In reading a recent article in INC. Magazine about success traits of some of the nation’s top executives, one of the common things that all of them shared was they got an early start every day.  Most of them were up well before 5:00am and “in the chair” before most of their competition.  In the game of life, you have very few opportunities to “gather an edge” over the competition.  YOUR competition is your Comfort Zone—it is the competition for your focus and your success!  So… get up 1-2 hours earlier than usual for the next 60 days.  Get your ass out of bed and get busy 120 minutes before the competition!   The things that you can accomplish and the way you prepare in those “Golden 120” minutes between 5:00am and 7:00am will snap you out of your Comfort Zone and into your Action Zone!  Think about all of the things you can accomplish:

-You can read the entire newspaper (or two) and enjoy your coffee while you do.

-You can get in 30-60 minutes of solid exercise to “get the crud out of your veins” and get your blood pumping.

-You can write an entire chapter in your upcoming book or a blog post for your new, customer-focused blog.

-You can spend 10-15 minutes in preparation (doing your homework) for each of today’s sales calls.

-You could prepare 20 questions for every face to face sales call that you are going on today. (Heck, you might even be able to practice them aloud!)

-You can read a book on sales, self motivation, time management, overcoming objections, price negotiation, etc.

Are you getting this yet?  All of the things that you say that you never have time to do CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED if you “arrive to the game earlier.”

K-Kick up Some New Activity

I am often reminded of an old commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts that highlighted the donut maker waking up every morning, day-in and day-out, with the same phrase, “Time to make the donuts…”  Every day, he went about the exact same routine of waking up at the same time and mindlessly getting to work to crank out dozens and dozens of donuts.

I see too many sales professionals falling into the same trap.  They get up each day and mindlessly go through a set of prescribed motions designed to identify, capture and engage new customers while, at the same time taking care of existing customers.  The find themselves often times in a rut. (Which has been described as a grave with the ends kicked out!)

It’s time to Kick up some new ACTIVITY.  In order to get out of the Comfort Zone rut, we need to take a long hard look (hell, make it a short glance) at the myriad of things that we do each and every day and ask ourselves if each one produces the results desired.  Next, we need to identify 5 NEW activities that we can begin right now that will re-ignite our creative flames, get us out into the limelight (in front of our customers), and shake things up! Are you starting to get the picture?  Action begets Action!  Doing the same thing every day and expecting different results is what Einstein called INSANITY!

E-Enjoy the Results of Your Work!

When all is said and done; when you have recommitted to your goals for the year, built and taken action on a solid plan to accomplish those goals, gotten into the habit of arriving earlier to the game, and kicked up some new focused activity, the results will be apparent!  It is very important to celebrate your re-birth to the land of the committed.  It is paramount to enjoy the fruits of your re-found effort.  Enjoy, this is a game.  This is a journey.  As I said however, it is you who draws the map for the journey.  If you know the destination and can lay out a route to get there, you will have a much better shot of changing course when you take the occasional exit on the Comfort Zone freeway.

The choice is and will always be yours to make.  It’s easy to coast, to cruise, and to remain where there is little risk.  It’s easy to take the path of least resistance and stay where you know what you know.  However, this path will often not get you what you really want.  It may occasionally get you close, but if you are focused on what you really want, and are willing to stay focused, you can get what you really want!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:  “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

The next time that you find yourself staying too long inside your Comfort Zone, understand that you are not working up to your potential.  Your ability to unleash your potential is determined by your willingness to S.H.A.K.E. things up!  Now go get shakin’!

Company Culture – How Do You Measure Up?

 

Multiethnic Group of People Planning Ideas

We hear it every day; “I can’t seem to keep salespeople motivated.”  “There is always some kind of problem or issue with my people.”  “They get so negative.”

One of the most overlooked areas in most companies is the environment or culture in which their sales team operates.  At Sales Coach International, we get called in to diagnose problems when a sales team is lacking in performance.  The cry goes out to” Fix Us!”  Often times, we find a stable of talented sales professionals who are starving for recognition, training, attention, coaching, guidance, and leadership.  We find people “going through the motions” at their desks.  We find people who have to come to work to earn a paycheck rather than those who get to come to work to build a career.

The environment that is present in a company is very important to all staff but even more so to a sales force. Salespeople, by the very nature of what it is that they do, are forced to go through very redundant, scripted, and sometimes very repetitive activities such as prospecting daily. After all, as one most aptly put it, “We are in the professional no-taking business.”  It is unrealistic to expect most of your salespeople to be excited to come in and “pound those phones” or cold call on a multitude of businesses every day.  Why is it then, that some companies have huge sales forces that do so with passion and fire month in and month out?  Why is it that some companies can keep salespeople for a long period of time and keep them productive as well?

We believe that the answer lies in the environment in which they work.  We believe that the culture that is created in a sales department is paramount to the success of the team and the individuals on the team.  The good news is that it does not cost a lot of money to create a solid positive, enthusiastic, competitive environment that pulls people into higher results and commands stronger work ethic, more camaraderie, more trust, and more loyalty.

Take a look at the place in which your salespeople work.  How are they physically situated?  Do the newest people on the team have access to the talent that oozes from your top producers?  Can they see them?  Can they hear them?  Often times we see sales departments that consist of many individual offices where each sales rep goes to fight the fight each and every day.  Get your people out of their “silos” and into an atmosphere of excitement!  Reserve the offices for the sales managers who may need to have one-on-one communication and coaching with those on the team. An additional benefit to this is that there tends to be a mutual accountability that grows from people having less limited access to their co-worker’s work habits.

Let the action flow!  If prospecting is something that is done on the phones on your team, make it a team event.  Schedule times where groups of your people do their prospecting at the same time.  By nature, salespeople are competitive.  Let them compete!!  Ring a bell when appointments are set!  Have a contest!  Have fun!  Take the redundancy out of the workday.  Mix it up!

What type of communication culture do you have throughout your sales team?  Do your salespeople feel that they can express their needs to their sales manager freely?  Is there an environment that encourages input from everyone or is it a “head down-nose to the grindstone” atmosphere where it’s every man for himself?  This is an area where we all need to pay close attention.  When a salesperson is new, they may not readily ask questions for fear of looking inept.  Assign a buddy, a peer that they can go to with questions, challenges, and concerns.  It is a lot easier for them to ask their peer how to operate the database for the 3rd time than it is for them to ask their manager.

What do your sales meetings sound like?  Are they run-of-the-mill excuses to get together to go over the numbers?  Do your people look forward to them?  Do you?  A sales meeting is a chance to work on the hearts, the minds, and the gut of all of your salespeople. It is an opportunity for all to communicate their triumphs, their losses, their fears, and their enthusiasm.  It is a chance for management to align the vision, track the goals, inspire, coach, train, and to LISTEN!!  Sales meetings should not be the “you-know-what-runs-down-hill” meetings to beat up an under performing sales force.  Most times, there is nobody that wants to close more business than that salesperson that you are about to burn in your sales meeting.

How many of your people would say that they are overly recognized?  Recognition is one of the most important things to a sales person.  It is almost as important as oxygen! The best part about recognition is that most times it doesn’t cost anything.  Yet, we find that salespeople rarely get the recognition that they need from the company their managers.  There are many things that can be done to recognize your people regularly.  As salespeople, we will go out of our way to make sure that our clients know we care by the way that we communicate with them and tend to their needs.  Why is it that we do not take the same approach with our people?  When was the last time that your salespeople got a handwritten note from their manager?  When was the last time that a salesperson’s opinion was asked in regard to an issue currently being handled by management?  When was the last time that you said “Thank You” to your salespeople?  Every company needs to address recognition as a vital system to be developed.  Success comes by design-not by chance.  What recognition systems can you design for your people?

Within their first 30 days, everyone wonders if they made the right decision to come to work on your team.  Make sure that you develop a “first impression” policy throughout your entire organization.  Instead of going away parties for those leaving, how about a welcome aboard party for newcomers?  Make their first day a memorable one.  Have a company shirt, hat, mug etc. on their desk for them.  Have them set up on e-mail and voice-mail.  Have their business cards printed and waiting for them on their first day.  What would WOW you?  Send a gift with a handwritten card home to their spouse welcoming them to the team as well.  Get out of the box!  Let them know that they are important to the team right out of the chute and they will dig in deeper and become more productive sooner.  Do this, and you will earn the right to expect hard work, long hours, and extra effort.

There are hundreds of other things that can and should be done to enhance the environment in your sales departments.  Challenge yourself to come up with creative new ideas to inspire your people.  Most of all, do not be afraid to have fun.  In fact, go out of your way to make sure FUN is not a four letter word.

8 Sales Dysfunctions that Cost You Dearly

8 mistakes blogAs sales professionals, we need to pay attention to all wins AND all losses. There are specific things being done by salespeople every day that create the LOSS of sales and the LOSS of customers. You need to make sure that you or your people are NOT doing these.

It’s challenging enough in the marketplace today gaining new business from existing customers and gaining the trust of new customers to take a chance with you.  On top of that, the competition is doing crazy things, dropping prices and trimming margins to all-time lows.  With all of the existing challenges that we face in the marketplace, we certainly don’t need to be adding to our woes by engaging in dysfunctional sales behavior!  Unfortunately, I am seeing too much of this today and it needs to STOP!  Pay attention to the following EIGHT areas of sales dysfunction and make sure that you are not participating in any of these:

1-Leading with your wallet

Although it seems price sensitivity is present in our customers today at much higher rate than in recent history, we cannot forget that “The price is the scorecard for how well you play the game.”  Too many times, the salesperson of today is more price sensitive than the customer.  Why?  It seems (in the mind of the salesperson) that whenever a sale is lost today, it usually comes down to price.  In fact, it seems that customers are actually getting programmed by the competition to discuss price earlier in the sales process.

Here is what happens:  Too many salespeople do not spend the appropriate amount of time building the value of their product or service offering.  Just when we need to be doing a better job of communicating and connecting value (see below), we tend to rush to the one thing that customers see as the common denominator; price!  When we “tee-up” phrases such as, “We want to make sure that we get you the best deal or the best rate” we only add to our problems.

We need to leave price out of the conversation as much as we can.  You know price will be a consideration in the decision.  They know it too!  But, for most buyers, the price is what it costs to get a result.  Do yourself a favor and discuss what result the customer seeks.  Learn to deflect price (set it off to the side) initially instead of avoiding it.  Leading with price turns into competing on price which leads to margin and commission erosion for you and no perceived value to the customer as to who you are and what you do for them besides lower prices.

Most customers will grind you on price if:

A.     They know that they can and you will react by lowering it—(you don’t value your offer as much as you should) or

B.     They don’t understand the value—(you have not communicated the value in terms of what they get for making the decision to go with you and your price)

2.  You stopped communicating your value

Anyone can make a sale or create a customer the first time.  The art of a long and healthy sales career is in building a long list of loyal clientele that continues to value you and your company over all others.  Too many salespeople today think the opposite; that getting the initial sale is the hard part and once that’s done, it should be all downhill from there.  WRONG!

The customer that feels unimportant begins to reconsider your value and that of your company.  In fact, I was on stage with another speaker recently that stated, “In a tough economy, customers get promiscuous!”  Listen, when you land a new customer, you have just created a new target for the competition.  They  will now strategize not only how to land the business, they will actually strategize how to TAKE it from you.

In the world today, delivering on what you promised is no longer good enough!   You cannot leave it up to the customer to stay “in love” with you on their own.  After a while, the things that you do for the customer will tend to get taken for granted if you let them.  It reminds me of the age-old question and answer:  When is the best time to tell your spouse that you love them?….Before someone else does!

The customer that takes their business elsewhere today costs much more than the one that never buys.  Why? Because you were counting on that business!  You had it!  Shame on you for letting them fall out of love!  We can’t afford to neglect to continually communicate what we “bring to the table.”

3-“Get it CLOSED” vs. “Get it OPENED” Mentality!

(I have to be careful with this one because it may seem that I will contradict myself below when I discuss closing—or lack thereof.)

The current state of desperation that exists in many sales organizations today has many salespeople focused on tactics and TODAY instead of strategy and FOREVER!  In fact, this is true with a solid majority of salespeople regardless of the economy.  Too many are more concerned with the sale that is made today than they are with the repercussions of the “scorched earth” that they leave behind in their efforts.

Salespeople are focused (often by management) to meet deadlines, hit sales quotas, earn bonuses and win contests.  Although I understand the importance of urgency in the sales process, we cannot run roughshod over the needs and desires of the customer in the effort to meet our agendas.  While me may occasionally win a sale this way, this behavior will not tend to endear us to the customer and thus, trust is low resulting in no referrals (who want their contacts to go through that?) and no relationship going forward!

Try to consider what the “lifetime value” of a customer could be if you do everything right.  Imagine what it would be worth if you make the right moves for and with the customer initially and then continue to grow with them and for them for years to come.

There are many differences between a one-night stand and a marriage.  Do you know what they are?

4-Use of URGENCY SELLING TACTICS and Tricks

I guess there used to be a day when buyers used to be somewhat regarded as unintelligent.  If not, I cannot understand where some of the hogwash tactics used today tend to come from.  One of the big ways that salespeople seek to secure a sale is the “buy-now-or-miss-out” tactic.  This mostly leads to more “push-back” and less trust on the part of the buyer.

Eventually, price dropping is what comes next for the seller and the nasty cycle continues.  When the customer is pressured to buy before they are ready, value moves down the priority list and price takes its place on the top!  Customers understand more and more today that they can buy on their terms from somewhere and if it cannot be from you, they will either look elsewhere or demand that YOU PAY for their urgency!  Again, even if you do win the business using this tactic, there is probably little foundation for a relationship there for future business.

5-Lack of AWARENESS and EMPATHY

Today’s seller needs to be hyper sensitive to the current frame of mind of the buyer.  They need to do their best to connect to the most compelling needs that the customer may have to purchase the product or service that they are offering.  This all goes back to the shortest course on selling; Ask Questions and Listen!  On top of that, today’s economy arms sellers with unending accessibility to information to help them prepare and communicate with the customer from their point of view.

Instead of a better process however, I tend to see a continued focus on the presentations of their stuff!  The rush to roll-out the Powerpoint Presentation is the goal.   The agreement to have us write a proposal or send a bid seems to be the entire purpose that a salesperson lives for.

In the world we live in today, the connection that a salesperson makes with our prospects, customers, and clients is the primary asset that we need to covet.  If we choose to NOT be the lowest price and we choose to NOT be a “one-and-done” vendor, we need to shift our focus and that of our sellers BACK to the customer.

Instead of preparing yourself and your sellers on the “what to say” part of the selling transaction, we need to prepare and practice the questions that create the dialogue that creates the connection.  It is through that connection that we will discover and understand how to best help the customer buy today and for the long-term.  More importantly, it will help the customer discover and understand that we differ from the competition in value and that our concern for them deserves their continued trust and business.

6-Afraid to ASK for the Business

If I had 100 salespeople in a room and told them that I had one-hour to train them in one specific area of the sales process and that they could pick from a list of our 27 different training topics, I bet that over 80% of the room would ask me to cover CLOSING!  You see, many sellers believe that if they could learn the secrets of CLOSING, then the sales process would be shorter and they would have to focus less on the other stuff.

I believe that closing is the natural conclusion to the professional, customer focused sales process.  If you are with a customer discussing the potential of doing business together, it should be a foregone conclusion that, if the connection between buyer and seller is correct and that the offer meets the needs, then a sale should be the result.  Right?  However, there is some small print attached that we are all too aware of.

I often state that there are two people that should be dismissed from the profession of selling:

The first one to go must be the salesperson who rushes to the close (see above) before garnering the customer’s trust and diagnosing their specific needs.  They use tricks and tactics (see above) and make all sellers look like a bunch of self-centered, product-focused, short-sighted hacks with commission breath!  They need to GO!

The second salesperson that needs to go actually does a good job for the majority of the sales process.  They prepare well and strategize a decent approach.  They engage the customer in conversation and discover (with the customer) the motivations for buying.  They present a customized and anchored proposition of value that speaks the unique needs of the customers and they communicate the value strongly in the customer’s language.  But then……they never ask for the business!   They need to GO too!

It is not the customer’s job to buy.  It is our job to help them do so in a professional manner when we see the mutual benefit of the sale.   Anything short of that and we have not done our job.  When the economy is tight and opportunities to sell are fewer, we cannot afford to be “professional presenters” or “hesitant product-pushers.”  EARN—ASK—GET!!

7-It’s NEVER a touchdown if you drop the ball!

When you are fighting for every opportunity you can find, dropping the ball on even one item is not acceptable.  Follow-up and follow-through are two major areas of differentiation for professionals in any arena.  The sales profession requires it daily!  There is no excuse for not doing what it is that you said you were going to do!

In today’s competitive and challenging marketplace, a salesperson can actually create a considerable level of differentiation in the way that they communicate next steps and then follow through with those steps.  It’s too easy to overpromise and underperform.  It’s too easy to justify a lack of follow up by complaining that you are too busy trying to secure new sales.  (You were the same one that justified your lack of follow up 2 years ago by saying that you were too busy with existing business.)   Stop buying into your own [email protected]#$%t!

Please remember that follow-up is NOT the customer’s job!  Timeliness today has a much different definition than it did a few years ago.  Technology has “turned up the dial” on customer’s expectations.  Technology has also created many tools for you to stay on top of your commitments and to do what you said you would do!  Use what is available.  Set the alarm on your cell phone.  Set a reminder in your CRM program.  Leave yourself a voicemail or send yourself an email.

When all of the smoke clears, here is what it comes down to: Either you will be a person who honors their commitments (to themselves, their families, the colleagues, the companies, and their customers) or you will be a person who does not.  Choose!

8-Referrals are by accident ONLY

When a customer decides to do business with you and you deliver exactly what it is that you promised (or more), when you promised it, you have earned the right to ask them to do so for someone else in their network.   The most successful sales professionals in any industry acknowledge that a major part of their success is due to the consistent stream of introductions and referrals from their existing customer base.

Too many sellers today do not focus on the power of the referral.  The main reason that they do not consistently ask for and get referrals is that they do not look at it as part of the sales process.  If the subject of referrals is ever brought up, it is often done so very weakly by the seller such as, “If you ever think of anyone that might be interested in…………..blah…blah…blah.”  Just as with anything that is to be duplicated and/or systematic, there needs to be a process/a system to follow!  And it needs to be followed with conviction and commitment.

Remember, two of the biggest concerns that a prospective new customer has about doing business with you are:

1-“Will I pay too much?” and

2-“Will this product/service meet my expectations (as set by the salesperson.)?

Both of these questions are answered in advance if you have been referred by someone that they trust.

Take a good hard look at these EIGHT customer, sales, and/or margin killers above and keep a good eye on the sales process in which you engage daily.  Are any of these things killing your sales?  Are any of these dysfunctions creating an “anti-sales” culture?  It’s time to streamline your efforts and “sweat the small stuff.” 8 mistakes blog

The Little Things Really DO Matter!

The Little Things Blog

There is a popular series of books that have been out a couple of years called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.  When it comes to sales, I do not believe the teachings apply as well.  In fact, it is the small stuff the separates the winners from the average players.

So much is taught in sales about the “big parts of the game” such as the cold call, the pitch or presentation, the sales cycle, working a pipeline, overcoming objections, and closing.  And yet, with all of this knowledge and training, the majority of salespeople still have difficulty managing the entire process through to the finish line.

At the same time, you will find there is a small group of salespeople that focus on, what most would consider to be the small stuff.  What types of things are these?  Here are a list of a few of the little things that matter in the profession of sales:

1-They schedule prospecting time every day!  They realize that, no matter how hot and heavy everything happens to be in their pipeline today, it is the plowing (prospecting) at the top of the pipeline that opens it up for continued results.

2-They build and consistently use a referral generation process.  They know that the best source of new business comes from existing clients and that by leveraging their existing relationships, they actually create a small sales force of their own that “keeps the leads flowing in.”  They also realize that they need to 1) Ask for the referrals, 2) Earn the right to ask, 3) Make it easy to refer, 4)and say Thank You.

3-They use target and personal marketing campaigns.  They realize that, in business, it is not who you know, but rather who knows you that counts.  They create a systemized “touch campaign” that not only reaches out to identified key prospects before they call upon them, but also continues to “whisper in their customer’s ears” regularly.  The true pro realizes that value-add relationships develop loyalty from their customer base so they make sure that all of their touches are unique and value-add.

4-They Say Thank You—A Lot!  Top producers sometimes go back and revisit the tactics used years ago and “dust them off” for use today.  One such tactic is the use of Thank You Notes in the sales process. Too many salespeople rely on brief email notes and voice mail messages to express their gratitude for a sales appointment, a referral, a sale, or anything else.  Although Thank You Notes were very common years ago, they are only in the arsenals of those who wish to stand out today!  By the way, can you say Thank You too much to your customers?

5-They do what they say they are going to do.  Although this seems like a very logical, natural thing for all to follow, the sad truth is that we live in a world where the broken promise is the norm and the “under-whelmed” customer is most common.  True sales pros focus on “managing the expectations” of their customers and adding value in the customer’s eyes by OVER PERFORMING on expectations.

In the marketplace, I suggest that, as sales professionals, we need to make sure that we are focused on ALL of the things that are necessary for our success.  The little things are what separates us from the crowd.  The good news is that, with a little work, you will build the confidence in your “scoring zone” to consistently achieve greater sales results.  So…Sweat the Small Stuff!

 

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.

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?

What’s Our Next Step?

what's nextI recently saw a movie with my children called “Meet the Robinsons.”  In the movie, there was a character from the future who kept saying “Keep Moving Forward!” “Keep Moving Forward!”  Apparently, in the movie, the kid’s father was a great inventor who continuously, relentlessly spoke of looking ahead to what could be instead of focusing on what is.  The movie, and that character, made me think of some of the top salespeople that I have worked with over years and how they have a habit of relentlessly moving forward with an enthusiasm not shared by their peers.
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.
Strategically, the top sales professionals also have a habit of focusing on “What’s the next step?” in their day to day business.  They do not get bogged down in projects or analysis.  Instead top salespeople understand that ACTION begets ACTION.
In the effort of effectively PLANNING with THE END IN MIND, the top producers always focus on WHAT’S NEXT!