You Are Already at the End of Q1

As we head into December, closing out another calendar year, many salespeople and sales managers are strategizing how to push some of those final deals across the finish line, how to navigate the inevitable “customer” hide and seek that the Holidays bring, and how to get ready to get ready to get their 2019 goals in line. The reality for many salespeople in many industries is that they are already at (or near the END) of Q1 2019!  Here are three reasons that this is the case:

Your prospects/customers are already looking into 2019 and planning out their needs. 

The markets into which you sell have buyers that are looking into their strategic business needs for the year and budgeting to meet those needs.  Those needs may be based on based upon growth or expansion plans, employee additions, equipment upgrades, or changes in their business structure or direction. Committees are already being formed, responsibilities are being assigned, and decision makers and influencers are getting in line.  Have you had some of these conversations with your key prospects and key accounts? Do you understand “where they are going” and how you might be invited to help them get there?

How many times in 2017-2018 did you get to the dance too late? How many times did you find out too late that prospects and clients had needs that were being met or projects that were being proposed by your competitors; needs or projects that you and your company are better suited to handle?

Your pipeline is anemic and your main focus is trying to close what’s in it instead of filling it.

You’ve heard it for years; The #1 sales strategy is a FULL PIPELINE of opportunities!  You know a full pipeline is the catalyst for your success in conversion rates, margins, and all negotiations!  You KNOW that success breeds success!  You look, feel and even smell different when you are working many opportunities and it seems that there are many options right behind those!  However, it seems to be a common issue that faces salespeople and sales organizations every year and, for many, at the end of quarter. I know you want and need to “hit your numbers” While it is important to passionately and professionally FOLLOW-THROUGH on everything that is currently in your opportunity pipeline, you need to schedule the time to continue to fill it for the next 6 months. Pipeline filling is even more important than pipeline management! Get on the phone or in the field and load up your pipeline for 2019 NOW!

You have had too much of a transactional relationshipwith your clients for the past year.

Don’t you wish that your conversations were deeper with your customer base? Don’t you wish that they discussed upcoming projects more openly with you? Don’t you wish that they shared with you what their goals were for the upcoming year?  If you are only there for your customers and clients when there is a sale/commission to make, would you really consider yourself a partner worthy of these conversations?  OK…let me ask you a final question:  Whose job do you think it is to “tee-up” these conversations?  Consider the term Business Reviewfor a moment.

What if you could invite your Top Five Customers/Clients to sit down with you within the next 2-3 weeks (yes, that soon, if not sooner) to discuss their plans, their goals, and their concerns for the upcoming year?  Wouldn’t this be a fantastic time to dig in and learn where they are heading and what they are hoping to accomplish?  Wouldn’t it be a perfect time to express your gratitude for their trust and business over the past year?  What could you uncover? What could you learn? How might your position yourself as a partner vs. a vendor?

Instead of “riding out the year” or just grinding out the final deals of the year that are currently in your pipeline, start scheduling time to strategically set up your New Year now!

Proactive Vs. Reactive

The sales professional in today’s marketplace has more expectations thrust upon him by his customers than ever before.  In fact, most salespeople don’t understand this simple fact!  Instead of rising to the occasion and providing the value that their prospects, customers, and clients seek, they instead choose to do nothingdifferently and opt to lower price to get the business.  As my son Cooper often says, “What are you thinking?  Hellooooo?”

There is a major difference between the Reactive salesperson and the Proactive sales professional. Each person gets up each day with the same opportunity, the same challenge:  to enter the marketplace as a value-add component to the customer and to help that customer choose to buy (or to continue to buy) from them!  In today’s uncertain economic environment with rapid change and consistent inconsistencies in the buyer’s world, it is absolutely necessary to avoid the trapthat the Reactive approach will too often set for you!  Simply showing up to do your job no longer is enough!  Taking the order and delivering as promised is simply not enough anymore.  In fact, low pricing and quality products alone don’t even guarantee you the order anymore.

In speaking with a current Foodservice client of mine recently, I found myself addressing an issue that several of his team members were facing—a severe increase in the price sensitivity and focus on the part of the customer.

Some background info: The salespeople on his team are selling into the restaurant environment as “route salespeople” taking grocery orders weekly from owners and managers. Regularly these customers take calls from salespeople from competing companies that carry the same lines and often the same brands of products.  Left to their own thoughts, the customer will feel that many of the products (and thus those who sell them) are commodities!

The reason for the increase in price sensitivity (even nominal price fluctuations) is quite simple. The restaurant owner in today’s market is in the middle of a perfect storm.  They are seeing higher food prices than ever before.  They are facing additional fuel surcharges from the Foodservice Distributor due to out-of-control oil pricing.  They are seeing customer counts shrinking due to a lack of consumer confidence based upon current economic uncertainty in the financial markets, real estate markets, fuel prices, food prices, etc.  So, in a nutshell, they pay more, sell less, and see no end in sight.  The natural thing for them to do is to analyze where they need to cut back and guess who is naturally first in line?  The vendor that they pay the most—the grocery guy!

As an exercise, I suggested that we analyze the feedback from a sample customer—ABC Café.  This particular restaurant owner has stated that their business is “a bit off” with 3-4 fewer tables being served at lunch and 3-4 fewer tables being served at dinner on average each day.  With an average table at lunch producing $30 in revenue and an average table at dinner producing $50, a rough estimate over a month shows a decrease in about $8,500 in revenues.  That translates to about $100,000 per year in revenues!  That is often then entire take-home pay of the restaurant owner!

This needs to be addressed—PROACTIVELY—by the sales rep if they choose to keep the account and develop the relationship!

Think about this for a moment.  What the customer is saying to you is not as important as what they are saying when you are not around that can and will affect you!  Put on the customer’s “hat” for a moment.  What do you think the topics of conversations might be for him/her with their spouse at home at night?  What decisions do you think they might be weighing?

  • “Do we pay the rent on the restaurant OR the mortgage on our home this month?”
  • “How do we tell our son/daughter that we cannot pay to send them to college this year?”
  • “How much longer can we stay open?”
  • “Will our car get repossessed?”
  • “Maybe one of us needs to get another job to help support the family?”
  • “Who do we need to let goto cut back costs?”
  • “Where else can we cut?”

Every one of these questions is a point of considerable pain that started with just a few less customers per day.  Although it looks small, as you can see, it is not!

It has been my experience that the overwhelming majority of salespeople that have customers facing tight economic times simply choose to de-emphasize it and try to focus on what’s next.  In other words, “I know times are slow for you now but I still need to sell you something so listen up!”

Understand this, very few customers wake up in the morning and get excited about buying what it is that you are selling!  This falls true especially for business customers versus actual consumers.  For example, the restaurant owner didn’t open his doors today to buy groceries!  However, he did open his doors with the intention to make a profit sellingmeals!  He does this by creating a quality product, with over-the-top service, at a price that includes a solid profit margin—and he has to do that many times over each day!  Do you think that most salespeople are having conversations with the restaurant owner about buying more or selling better?   

The retail shop that opened his doors this morning didn’t do so to buy advertising!  He opened his doors to make a profit sellinghis product.  In order to so consistently, he needs customers and for that he needs visibility and differentiation.

The manufacturer doesn’t want to buy your machine parts!  They want to ensure (peace of mind) that their machines stay operational and running at capacity to stay productive and profitable!

When times are tough, each of these buyers looks to the vendors calling upon them. The conversations often come out as price objections and “nickel and dime” conversations.  Now is NOT the time for negotiation tactics or closing tricks!  Now is the time for strong, prepared PARTNER conversations.  Now is the time for YOU to proactively address the main financial concerns of the customer and really DIG/DIAGNOSE where it is that you and your company can help them to do a better job.

The natural human tendency is to assume that “If I spend less, I get to make more!”  Sellers face this very thought process every day and most tend to address it with mundane feature sellingby stating things like Quality-Service-Reliability, blah, blah, blah. It is obvious that higher quality should translate into a better product, but if you cannot connect the dotsfrom your higher quality, better products to their main goal (for example: PROFIT), then your product’s quality is not a desire!

So, here is a great drill for you and your team to get into over the next few weeks:

  • Have some internal conversations within your sales organization with the customer’s business the main topic. Engage the entire sales and service team to bring to the tablethe customer’s point of view.  What are you seeing?  What are you hearing?  What are they saying?  What might they be feeling?  What’s the word on the street?  Is business up?  Down? Why?  How can we help?
  • Set a specific meeting with your Top 10 customers with the specific intention to do a review of their business-with you and otherwise.
  • Steer the conversation during this meeting specifically to the current state of affairs financially.
  • Ask specifically how the current markets (fuel, interest rates, housing markets, etc.) are affecting their sales and their profits.
  • As them what, if any, tough decisions might be on the immediate horizon for them or their company. (Layoffs, cutbacks, closures, product line cancellations, etc.)
  • Ask them how their competitive marketplace looks.  What is their competition doing that they are not or cannot?  What are they doing about this?
  • Ask them what it is that they value most from the current relationship that they have with you as a preferred vendor/partner?
  • Ask them what you could do better to assist them in the profitable growth of their business?

***This is important:  Listen to what they say—with the intent to Understand! Listen to what they say with intent to Add Value!

In advance:

Make sure that you carefully prepare your questions.  Your questions should help you uncover pains and fears that you and your company may be able to assist them with. (Many of these may have absolutely nothing to do with your products but will have everything to do with your value!) Make sure that you are prepared for any and allthings to come up. Don’t get caught off guard!  If negative things so come up—and, done properly, they probably will, do not get defensive! (Remember, you asked for it!) Make sure that you are prepared to take notes.  Make sure that you come to some solid action steps as a result of the conversation—and DON’T DROP THE BALL!!

The very fact that you are willing to address what is going on in their business should differentiate you and your firm.  The very fact that you are willing to sit down and analyze their current business status should elevate you from “one of” the many vendors to “the” value-add partner.  Zig Ziglar said years ago, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!”  Show them that you care more than the competition by having the GUTS to bring up their issues.

It doesn’t matter what business you are in.  Your customer is faced with challenges and choices every day.  Whether YOU bring it up or not, the issues and challenges brought upon by the current economic marketplace are still there!  Would you rather bring it up on yourtermsor have them bring it up on their terms? One may position you as a partner/advisor/expert and the other could very well position you as a victim.  Your choice—Proactive or Reactive?

How to Drive More Actions, Behaviors, and Results!

Every day, as a sales professional, each of us enters a competitive marketplace to face a variety of challenges to our success.  These challenges come in many forms and the thoughts that go through our mind before we enter the marketplace DEFINE our actions and behaviors.  Too often, salespeople enter the day’s activities in much the same way that many people enter the workforce; they just show up!  The actions in which they involve themselves each day are not a direct result of conscious thought, but rather repetitious activity.  They mindlessly go through the motions of making calls, leaving messages, visiting accounts, taking orders, and filling out reports.  When the dust all settles from the day, the results are very similar to yesterday, the day before, and the day before that.  As Earl Nightingale stated in his award-winning audio The Strangest Secret, “the enemy to success is conformity.”  In other words, we simply conform to the natural tendency to simply show up and do our jobs.  The first thing it takes to get out of this RUT is to think!!

In a 4-hour leadership session that I delivered recently, one of the attendees asked me a question: “What is it, Gerry that you believe that you sell?”  After pondering the question for a moment (thought) I answered that when I am speaking from the stage, I am really selling new ways of looking at things or new ways of thought!  Before anyone can or will take different ACTION towards something, they must first think about it in a different way.  Otherwise, there would be no motivation for the change in behavior or action!  Think about it for a moment.  Every bit of information that enters your head comes with it the seeds of new thought and possibly newly directed behavior or action.  When you read something that is new to you, you think about that topic differently.  When you view a documentary that provides a considerable amount of new information or data about a topic that interests you, your mind goes into a thought process that could potentially make you take action that you previously had not.  (At the time of this publication, ex-Vice President of the US, Al Gore has just received the Nobel Peace Prize for his documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth” which has led millions of people to think about their actions and thus behave differently based upon new thought!)

So, as a sales professional, what is it that you think about each day?  Pre-call preparation is an area that an overwhelming amount of salespeople could improve in.  Do you want to know the easiest place to get started preparing better for every sales call?  It’s in your thoughts.  Those of you that have spent any time in my training know that ONE QUESTION can begin this process.  That question?  “What is the PURPOSE of this call?” By simply starting with that question, it will force you to think about what it is that you wish to accomplish on the sales call that you are about to make.  Stephen Covey says that we need to “begin with the end in mind.”

Now, you need to go beyond the typical answer of the sales force: “We want to sell this guy something.”  That is the reward for achieving the result that you seek.  THINK!  THINK!  What is it that you need to accomplish?  What is it that you need to get the customer thinking about?  What is it that needs to occur for the circumstances (no decision to buy) to change in your favor (a decision to buy.)  Below, I have listed a few thoughts that you may want to take into consideration before making your next round of sales calls.  Turn off the TV (TIVO your favorites) for one week and spend your time with your thoughts.  Instead of simply showing up for next week’s sales calls and “spraying and praying,” try giving some thought to the ideas below in advance so that when you open your mouth, every sound brings you closer to your desired outcome.  Remember:  Talking too much usually follows thinking too little. 

Some thoughts to drive new actions, new behaviors, and hopefully new results:

“What is the purpose of this call?”

“What might this prospect/customer be thinking about me/my product today?”

“What are my prospect/customer’s highest value needs or most wanted outcomes?”

“What previous experience has this prospect/customer had with us in the past?”

“Where/who do they buy from now?”

“What is the benefit of ownership my product that they desire most?”

“How much time does this person have to meet with me?”

“Who else is courting this prospect/customer today?”

“How long has it been since my last visit and what have I done since to add-value?”

“What did we talk about last visit and did I take appropriate action on it?”

“What can I bring to the table that the prospect/customer will value?”

“How can I position myself as a resource versus a vendor?”

“How can I communicate my expertise without bragging?”

“How can I get the customer to want to know more about my product/service?”

“How can I create a need where there may not be a perception of one?”

“What do I need to get this prospect/customer talking about?”

“What do I need to know that they haven’t shared with the competition?”

“How can I avoid talking about price until I establish value?”

“How can I position myself as an EXPERT?”

“What stories can I share to communicate value?”

“What names can I drop to add credibility?”

“What does the customer value ahead of price?”

“How does the competition approach the customer and how can I differ?”

“How can I OPEN the conversation in a more impactful way?”

“How am I prepared to address the most common of prospect/customer concerns?”

“What will I say if they DRAG me to price early?”

“What 10 questions do I seek answers to and how do I best ask those questions?”

“How can I ask for the business once I have earned the right to do so?”

“Have I practiced the time condensed visit just in case we run out of time?”

“What information do I need to get from the customer to build a better case of value?”

“What OPTIONS have I prepared for the customer by which to say yes?”

“Have I made it easy to do business with me?”

“Am I thinking from my point of view or the prospect/customer’s point of view?”

Can you imagine having the answers to at least half of these questions before you made each of your sales calls next week?  Can you imagine the change in the level of confidence that you would bring to the market?  Can you imagine the change in your level of credibility?  Better yet, can you imagine the stronger you will be and the better experience that your prospect/customer will have because of it?  All this takes initially is thought!  Turn off the TV and turn on your brain!  Start developing a HABIT of running scenarios and thoughts through your head before showing up?  Start THINKING like a customer and you will start increasing your effectiveness in the conversations with them.  Dialogues will start becoming more meaningful and less about price.  They will begin asking advice of you because they will start becoming more aware of the fact that they are in the presence of a professional.

Always remember that a man is not rewarded for having brains, he is rewarded for USING them.   Understand and remember that thoughts lead to action!  Thinks better, act better, produce better, and earn better!

Or………you could make more cold calls!

Get Fit to SELL!

Today’s selling marketplace is not the same as it was 10 years ago.  There are more demands on our time.  There are more demands on us.  Customer’s expectations have increased along with their price sensitivity.  We are connected 24/7 via email, voicemail, cell phones, and IM.  We have to move faster, more efficiently, and more often to meet the needs of those with whom we wish to do business.  Our managers expect us to stop what we are doing and jump on a plane, make a sales call, fix a problem, take a client to a ballgame, have a late-night dinner, and do a variety of things to make sure that we don’t lose an opportunity or a client.

What is the answer as to how to compete—how to keep up?  Well, I have chosen to address part of the answer in this article.  GET FIT for the challenges that you face daily.  Oxygen has become an amazing additive to my daily/weekly diet through exercise.  Now, before you sign off in disgust at another exercise convert, I challenge you to read on….but only if you are interested in an EASY way to gain some additional edge over your competition.

Oh….do I have your attention?

The brain apparently is an organ that gives back in accordance to what it is given.  I have, for years touted the importance of feeding the brain by reading, listening to tapes and CDs in the areas in which you wish to improve, attending workshops & seminars, and reading industry magazines (yours and your customer’s).  It has long been my opinion that the more you feed your brain in the areas of expertise you need, the better your “shot” at becoming what you seek.  Although that has not changed, I now firmly believe in the feeding of something else to the brain—OXYGEN!

By setting up and following a simple regimen of exercise, you may very well increase your sales ability dramatically.  Let me see if I can give you a real-world example:

As a speaker, it is absolutely imperative that I am ON when I am on the speaking platform.  There is no excuse for a lackluster performance.  A client has engaged me to deliver a well-prepared message-to deliver content-and to do so in a way that will spark changes in behavior and thus, changes in results.  I need to be on my game.  I need to be well prepared and set to handle whatever may be thrown my way by the audience.  (Almost sounds like a sales call, doesn’t it?)

A while back, I was in Canada delivering two separate sessions to two different groups of CEOs regarding the development of a World Class Sales Organization.  I was to deliver two separate 4-hour sessions that would cover a variety of subjects including recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, retraining, and retaining of sales talent.  Because of the audiences that I would be addressing, (CEOs) I had to be prepared to adjust my content to the desires of those in attendance and be prepared for group questions, challenges, and other interaction.  Although I have delivered over 500 of these sessions over the years, every group is different and something new may come up at any time—I must be on my game!

The night that I arrived, I made sure that I got into my hotel and got prepared to deliver for the next morning.  My plane arrived late and I got to the hotel about 10:00pm.  I immediately unpacked for the next morning (my 1st session was to start at 8:00am).  After falling asleep around midnight, I arose at 5:00am to get in a workout in the hotel gym.  I have to say, I was not particularly motivated when I got up, but 10 minutes into a 2-mile run, I was looking forward to the weight room.  90 minutes later, I was set for the day.

My session that morning to my first group of CEOs was fantastic.  I had a very engaged group of people that questioned and challenged me throughout.  The session was delivered with high energy and it came sooooo easy.  It seemed that I had just begun speaking when I was given the sign that the session was over.  The grades that I received were unanimously perfect.  Not only was the session an effortless BLAST for me.  Apparently, the group thought it was content rich and value packed as well.

The balance of that day went to a coaching session with a client of mine that flew in from Winnipeg followed by dinner and a couple of bottles of wine.  Needless to say, the evening was late and the next morning held no exercise activity before I was going LIVE again at 8:00am.  Although the session was very similar and the audience was equally engaged, I had to put in much greater effort to get similar results.  I had to think more and try harder.  Why?  In my opinion, my brain did not get that release of oxygen in the morning before the session.  Although the end result was pretty much the same (great reviews), the effort I had to put in to get there was almost twice as much!

Have you ever noticed some sales seem to be effortless works of art where you gain an immediate connection with the prospect?  The questions that you asked seem to move the prospect towards your offer.  The answers that the customer seeks are right on the tip of your tongue and they come out so smooth.  The rapport and trust that you built was done so with very little effort and you walk away with a sale that you didn’t even have to ask for.  I’m here to tell you that the majority of your sales can go like that if you get in shape for selling.

Here’s all you have to do:

First, you gotta want it.  If you don’t do it for your health, do it for the additional commissions!

Second, you need to design a plan.  Use the 3 C’s:  Clarity-Commitment-Consistency

(Be CLEAR on what it is that you will do each day—Stay COMMITTED to your plan—and stay CONSISTENT with your efforts to feed your brain every day.)

Third, Take immediate ACTION to get started.

Whether you choose to walk, run, swim, or hit the gym and stretch or push some iron around, I challenge you to take that first step to your health and selling success by setting in ACTION a plan to “Get Fit for Selling”.

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.

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.

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!

Successful Time Management Strategies

importance-of-time-management

How many times have you caught yourself saying it, “I just don’t have the time?”. Think for a moment about what you might be able to accomplish if you had an extra day each week, an extra week each month, or an extra month each year? Would that help you get more of the results you are looking for?

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!”

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!)

  • 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 come 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, you might want to have your goals come up first!

 

  • 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

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • “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.

 

  • 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 until 10 o’clock. Don’t open your email until 10 o’clock. When you are taking emails 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.

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’!