No Goals Typically Means No Growth!

As you prepare to close out 2018 and ready yourself to usher in a new year I suggest we take a closer look NOW at where you want to be at this same time next year—in 2019. 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 from good to great in 2019!

There is no better place to start than to take a look over your shoulder. Did you reach your goals this year?  Did you even know what they were?  Did you accomplish what you wanted?  Did you even know what that was?  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 about the time you spent with your family?  How about your personal fitness?  How about your quality of life?  What are the top 10 events that happened for you this year?  What are all the good things that happened vs. the bad things that happened?

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 in 2019.  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 this year.Clearly decide what’s going to look different 365 days from today. Clearly decide what it is that you want inyour life and your career. Clearly decide what it is you want outof 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 wantto do better”, “I wantto make more money this year”, “I wantto lose some weight this year”, “I wantto 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 specifics.
  2. 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 “2019 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. 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!
  3. Set a deadline for reaching your goals.There have been many studies that show average business tends to get 65% more results in the 4thquarter 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.
  4. 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 than 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 that you recorded your goals in. On each page you are going to have a goal on the top and 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 in 2019. 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 typesof 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Commit to do something every dayto 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. You have committed 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 in 2019 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 publisher and the editor of a magazine and you have to set a deadline for everything that has to happen.
    4. Make a list of everythingthat must happen in order to achieve your goal.
    5. Organize your list. 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 2019 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! Why wait until January? Design your plan and create the path to go from good to great in 2019!

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!

Wandering Generalities vs Meaningful Specifics

As we are quickly heading into the last month of 2018, there are thoughts of New Year’s Resolutions running through the minds of many people.  I have often wondered what it is about the beginning of a new year that sparks so many people to turn over a new leafand begin to do the things that they know they should be doing right now!  It has been estimated that health club memberships increase by 20% every January. During this month, the gym is typically jam packed with new “fitness zealots.”  Unfortunately, the month of February finds the gym attendance plummet back to normal levels.

As salespeople, let’s make a pact to not fall into this pattern of New Years Resolution style goal setting.  The marketplace into which we sell is constantly evolving into one that is weeding out those salespeople that maintain the status quo.  This marketplace is becoming more and more demanding on sales professionals.  Customers have much more access to their options (our competitors) in the marketplace. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all salespeople to set a new goal for their own skill enhancement and growth for the New Year.

Year in and year out we find that it is the salespeople that regularly set their goals that show up on the top of the rankings.  Every time we do a seminar, we ask the question, “Who wants to be more successful next year than they were this year?”  Naturally, there is never a hand that stays down.  Everyone wants to improve, to make more money, to be more successful.  The fact is, most people do not define what MORE SUCCESSFUL is.  That is the main problem:  Most people have Wandering Generality Goals.

A wandering generality goal is one with no specifics to it.  “I want to make a lot of money.  I want to buy a new car.  I want a new house.  I want to be rich.”  While many of these may seem to be worthy pursuits, they have about as much chance of happening as does World Peace.  The danger with wandering generalities is that are not really goals at all.  What they are in fact, are dreams!

Wandering generalities are not written down, do not have timelines, and are very rarely accompanied by a plan for their accomplishment.  Hoping to accomplish something is not a great strategy. Wanting something really bad doesn’t make it happen!

If you, as a sales professional truly wish to accomplish something, that something needs to be written down and defined as specifically as possible.  A Meaningful Specific Goal is one that you have a clear picture of and a specific plan by which to achieve it.  For example:  I drive a new 2019 Jaguar Sedan which is black with tan interior.  I will lease the car by March 25thwith $3,000 down and a monthly payment of $575 for 36 months.  I will accomplish this by closing one more sale per week and saving an additional $1000 in commissions per month for the down payment and subsequent lease and insurance payments.  I will accomplish these additional weekly sales by making 10 additional prospecting calls per day every day for the entire year.  This will result in 4-5 more sales opportunities per week.  With my current closing ration at 1 in 4, I will meet this goal and drive this new car very easily.

Test your SUPERSTAR Sales Potential!!

RAISE THE BAR: TEST YOUR SUPERSTAR POTENTIAL

As a professional sales person, you should always be stretching yourself towards continuous improvement. To determine where you stand in relation to the Superstar Salesperson, take the following quiz. Grade yourself on each category/activity, based on the following:

3= I’m doing this now, consistently.

2= I’m doing this now, occasionally.

1= I don’t do this now but am willing to start.

0= I’m not interested in doing this.

Even if you are the consummate sales professional, the only hope of staying at the top of your game is ongoing and continuous improvement. As you read through and complete this quiz, look to identify how and where you can take your business actions and performance to an even higher level. As is true so often on tests of this nature, we will identify several things we already know, and in fact were once doing yet are doing them no longer. Use this exercise as the catalyst to reinvent yourself and your business!

GOALS

___Have a written one-year plan.

___Have a tracking and reporting system to monitor performance to plan.

___Incorporate life goals beyond pure business goals.

___Know the daily/weekly/monthly actions necessary to reach key objectives.

___Start off each day with a detailed to-do list.

___Follow a disciplined time management system.

___Have the necessary patience, realizing superstar results come from a process not an

event.

 

MARKETING

___Try new and innovative marketing ideas.

___Understand and implement an effective “perception of value” campaign.

___Have an ongoing “touch system” to stay visibly in front of my market.

___Evaluate my competition to gain and implement new, winning ideas.

___Spend at least 50 percent of my time each week talking with prospects, customers,

and clients.

___Seek out and develop niche markets to expand my marketing and business reach.

 

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

___Approach new markets and new business sources regularly.

___Identify a “Prospect Basket” of candidates to do new business with, and weekly

pursue a specific quantity, inclusive a proactive follow-up.

___Practice “Model the Masters”, by brainstorming with other superstar sales

professionals in your business.

___Be actively involved in both trade associations and community groups to ensure

visibility.

 

CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE

___Calculate the lifetime value of your customers.

___Be selective in who you work with and manage your time accordingly.

___Maintain a database of standard form letters for typical customer contact points.

___Provide value added suggestions, ideas and tools to help your database

be more successful and enhance your relationships.

 

REFERRAL BUSINESS

___Create the “Great First Impression”. Make it easy for first time customers to be

enthusiastic about referring business opportunities to you.

___Have a formal plan and process for asking for referrals at different stages where

appropriate.

___Refer business to your clients whenever possible.

 

ENTREPRENEUR BEHAVIOR

___Treat your book of business as if it were a business.

___Invest in your business and marketing efforts, don’t wait for the company to do so.

___Stay focused on business creating activities.

___Seek out a mentor to help you reach the next level.

___Master your key products and services.

___Attend industry conferences, seminars, and maintain a regular industry reading

program.

 

CULTURE FOR SUCCESS

___Align oneself with top professionals and a company with a solid reputation.

___Maintain ongoing recognition systems for 1) prospects, customers, clients,

2) fellow sales associates, and 3) sales support team.

___Focus on key revenue generating activities, delegating as much admin activities

to support personnel/assistants.

___Leverage the company resources as further support to your business.

___Maintain a practice of “under-promise”, “over-deliver” in daily business activities.

SCORING:

Add your total of the above criteria. If you scored 85-105, congratulations on your superstar performance and direction. Ensure you review this key activity indicator and work on your areas where improvement is indicated. A score of 60-85 suggests an acceptable direction towards sales professionalism, however there remain a good number of areas for improvement and opportunity. Pick two-three specific activities to focus on for improvement. Once implemented, return to this indicator and choose additional areas for improvement. A score below 60 is a wake-up call and suggests an overall relook and rework of your activities and commitment to excellence in the sales profession. Use this quiz as your starting point and begin to implement more of the activities that are reflective of those in the selling profession we recognize as SUPERSTARS!

*Note: Special thanks to the many Sales Professionals and Superstars for your guidance in assembling this tool. We at Sale Coach International wish each of you the best in your quest for SALES SUPERSTARDOM.

 

 

What Motivates the Buying Process???

Every time I run a session, whether with sales managers and CEOs or with salespeople, I ask the question: What do people buy…benefits or features? Without exception, there is a pause and then the word benefits sneaks out. (Like they are not sure) YES!  Benefits are what people buy!  I don’t want your product!  I don’t care to own your service!  I simply want the benefit of what owning it does for me!

An overused example: All of us who own a power drill do not care to own the drill.  At one point in our past, we simply wanted a HOLE!  The hole is the benefit that the drill provides.

So it is with our products and services.  The things that are important to you about your product or service are typically not what is important to your customers.

I perform the following exercise in many of my sessions:  Grab a blank piece of paper and very quickly write down the three main BENEFITS of doing business with your company.

Did you do it?  If you did (and you are like most of those who go through this exercise), you probably have some of the following words or phrases on the page in front of you:

Quality, Service, Reliability, Trust, Dedicated Staff, Technology, Local, People, Knowledge, Track Record, Me,                 Relationships, Blah, Blah, Blah…

You see, EVERYONE says the same stuff all of the time!  We go into the marketplace and tout the benefits of quality, service, and reliability (the holy tri-fecta of sales).  Our competition is saying the same things.  We all sound too similar.  We all sound like we attended the same school of sales.  We are all putting ourselves into the same box.

STOP IT!  Start telling the customer what these words or phrases (FEATURES) translate to in the form of benefits for them!  What does “service” translate into for them?  What BENEFIT do I get because of your products quality?  The answers to these questions will bring the customer closer to the reason that they will but from you.

Here’s a quick tip to help: Follow up each of your feature statements with this sentence:

So……what that (the feature) means to YOU is this: ________________________.

There are only a handful of benefits that your customer seeks.  What main benefits do you feel that your product or service provides for your customer?  Is it Peace of Mind?  Is it Greater Profitability?  Is it Ease of Use?  Is it Looking Good or Status?  Is it to Dominate the Competition?

What is it that owning your product allows me to have that I do not have currently?  If you can answer this and speak to this in your efforts to sell to me, I will not only go out of my way to own your product, I will pay a premium as well!

Pay Attention Now!! -Or Pay Another Way Later

Too often in the selling cycle, salespeople find themselves “back on their heels” trying to figure out what to do too late in the process. They are often scrambling to meet last minute demands by the customer or to pull together that “homerun presentation” that really delivers all of the main points.  Many times, the primary focus of the salesperson and his/her support team has been what they will present or say in their “moment of glory” in the boardroom.

It has been my experience that we, as salespeople, need to be 100% focused way back at the beginning stages of the sales process in order to get in the customers heart and headdeeper and more thoroughly.  We need to understand their business and their most compelling business needs of TODAY so that we can not only offer the most compelling and specific solution to meet their needs, but also (if we do it correctly), can possibly even help them write the specific parameters of the solution.  These will be the parameters that we deliver best AND that the competition will be judged by.

Here is my main point:  Many times, customers don’t know how to buy!  On top of that, they really never want to own your product or service in the first place. (Let’s face it…is your customer waking up today excited to see you in order to OWN more of your stuff?) What they DO want, however, is to be able to cure a pain or put peace of mind to a fear or to accomplish something that your product or service can assist with. In order to truly show our customer that we are the best solution, we need to understand what that somethingis—and often we need to help them understandwhat that is—before we begin to dump information on them about our proposed solution!

Salespeople and leaders often seek guidance and coaching from training firms and consultants regarding negotiation techniques, objection management strategies, and closing skills.  While all of these are crucially important skills to master, it is my belief that the need to employ these skills too often is based upon a lack of focus on the discovery process in the early stages of the customer’s “buying process.”  You see, we are often so focused on our selling process and our need to execute that processthat we do not pay enough attention to the customer’s need to buy –it is NOT because they want to own your product or service!

The clues as to how to OWN the account and make the competition irrelevant are found at the earlier stages of the sales cycle.  We teach that there are two main questions that we need to get CLEAR answers to early in the dialogue with the customer:

1-Can you help me understand what it is that youare trying to accomplish?

2-Can you help me understand why that is important to you?

Now, there are a couple of “catches” to this!  (You didn’t think it was THAT easy did you?) The first catch, again, is that many customers do not know the answer to these questions—at least the rightanswers.  In fact, the questions are written in a way that a conversation is the desired outcome. “Can you help me understand what you’re trying to accomplish?”…begs for an explanation whereas if we asked “What are you trying to accomplish?” we would simply get aninformationbased answer.  By asking it differently, we are looking deeper and trying to help the customer understand WHY they want to buy—to get a motivation-basedanswer.

The second “catch” to this approach is that prospective customers won’t always answer these questions the first time that you ask either because, as above, they have not really thought about it so they do not know the answer OR you may not have earned the right to get that answer just yet. Therefore, we need to be patient and focused in our approach to this.  We may need to prepare to ask these questions in several different ways at various times throughout the discovery phase of the sales process.

Finally, as it relates to these two questions, please notice that both questions are focused on the individual and their motives are.  Each decision maker or influencer in the buying process has their own specific motives as to how and why they will make their choice.  We need to understand earlier in the process what the motives are of each “player in the game” so that we can “write the playbook” accordingly.

Engage in this approach and you will find yourself in much more meaningful and fruitful dialogue early in the process which will communicate your professionalism and expertise better than all of your presentation slides could ever do.  The result will be an exceedingly high level of irrelevance that will be cast upon your competition!  They are focused on making a sale—YOU will be focused on creating a buyer!

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?

30-60-90 Days to New Hire Success

How 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 (QUESTIONS) 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?

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!

The Cost of an Undertrained Sales Person

Consider for a moment the cost to your organization that an untrained (or undertrained) sales force can create.  Right now, as you read this, there are thousands of salespeople calling on prospects, customers, and clients with little-to-no idea as to what they can (and need to) do to identify opportunity, qualify buyers, manage common objections, identify buyer’s motivations, position themselves and the company as value-add resources, or ask the right questions to discover needs and to earn the business.  Instead, they have been taught how to pitch, present, and price!

I have the opportunity to work with several salespeople in a coaching capacity each year.  One particular day I was working with a salesperson in the industrial power battery industry.  A customer had set up a meeting with him to come in and explore options on the replacement of batteries on approximately 30 of their 50 fork-lifts.  This was the first visit by the salesman and the meeting was a result of dozens of cold-calls each day to set such an appointment.  The gentleman that we were meeting with was the operations manager and he had expressed a desire to get a quote.  After the obligatory “passing of the cards” and brief introduction of my salesman and his company, the “march towards commoditization” began.

The salesman that I was working with then proceeded to ask to see the equipment.  After a brief tour of the warehouse, we came upon a fleet of fork-lifts.  There were several makes and models as well as many varying sizes.  From a tactical standpoint, the salesperson asked which ones in particular would be in need of new batteries.  Once a thorough inventory (and subsequent notes) had been taken of existing equipment, the salesman proceeded to thank the operations manager for his time and said that he would get back to him with comprehensive quote within the next 48 hours.  At that point, the ops manager replied (pay attention here) with, “No hurry.”   This statement certainly struck me as important but seemed to make no impact on the salesman.

When we got back into the car, I turned to the salesman and proceeded (as I am know to do) with a series of questions that seemed to temper the “price quote” enthusiasm of the salesman.  I am sure that you have thought of some of these as my story unfolded above:

-Qualification of the “buyer”

  • How long have you been in this role of operations manager?
  • Do you make all of the equipment purchasing decisions for this operation?
  • Do you make these decisions for any other company operations?
  • When it comes down to deciding who to award the business to, in addition to yourself, who else might be involved in that process?
  • I see that you currently use ___________ batteries, why are you entertaining a change?
  • In addition to a competitive price, what other elements of value do you consider when purchasing new batteries for your equipment?

-Qualification of the opportunity

  • How many of these fork-lifts have you played a role in acquiring?
  • Why do you have so many different makes and models?
  • Will you be replacing/upgrading any of these in the near future?
  • How often do you typically replace these batteries?
  • What are your expectations of battery life for these units?
  • How are the forklifts currently used?
  • What is your current recharge protocol for your forklifts?
  • How are the forklifts currently maintained?  Who does that?
  • What is the timeframe that you desire to get these batteries replaced?
  • If I were to get you a quote today, when would we need to make sure that we have these batteries in stock for you?

Would you be open to look into a quote not only on the batteries themselves, but on a comprehensive maintenance program designed to extend battery life by up to 30%?

(By the way, here is a valuable exercise for you and your sales team.  Take each of the questions above and see if you can come up valuable reasons why I would ask each question.  If you or your people cannot come up with real-world valid reasons why I would ask these questions—regardless of YOUR industry—you need to pay some attention!)

I can think of dozens more questions depending on how some of the above are answered.  The problem here, however, is that NONE of these questions were asked.

Instead, feeling as if he were doing his job, the salesman simply went about gathering basic information about the “supposed order” and then proceeded to move on to the “proposal of price stage.”  The unfortunate part is that this type of thing is happening every day in every industry.  Our salespeople have been severely undertrained when it comes to uncovering and discovering where, why, who, how, and WHEN!  It seems that they are simply focused on the WHAT!

What do you want to buy and what it will cost you!

In the story above, the operations manager stated that there was “no hurry” to get him a proposal or quote.  At the very least, don’t you think that this should raise a question in the mind of the salesman?  It certainly raised a few for me?

–How was this appointment set and who set it?

–Could urgency and timelines have been established before the proposal stage?

–Did the salesman help to create any additional urgency in the customer?

–Is the operations manager the final decision maker?

–Does he need the quote or is he acquiring it for someone else?

–Is the salesman being measured on quotes or sales?

–Did the salesman provoke thoughts in the ops manager that he was not aware of?

It seems to me that there are an overwhelming amount of salespeople out there that don’t have a strategic bone in their body.  The only thought that seems to enter their mind is based upon making a sale.  Although that is the obvious goal for most situations, the approach that most salespeople take works counterintuitive to that goal!  AND that is costing companies sales, revenues, profits, and relationships every day!

Think about our example story above; The salesperson, left to his own, would have gone back to his office and spent several hours researching and preparing a proposal for an opportunity that was not urgent or pending and quite possibly may have not even been real!  The hours spent on this activity cost you money!   Now, let’s take into account that while he is back at the office working on this quote (that most likely will not produce any near-term revenue) he is not generating new opportunities for the company. I don’t necessarily blame him.  In his mind, he IS pursuing a real sale of 100-200 new batteries.  He has not been trained to qualify or quantify opportunity!  This kind of thing is costing the company money every day but management typically does not see it.  What they see is a quote opportunity instead of a mishandled opportunity and a potential client that will most likely not be earned!

This example only illustrates the need for more training in the areas of opportunity identification and qualification.  Although I center most of our training in this area on questions that need to be asked, the exercise is also based upon knowledge of what each answer could mean in the strategic approach to the sale.  Taking just that one area (discovery) in the sales process, imagine how many times per day, per week, per month, per salesperson that this type of thing occurs (or does not occur.)  The costs to your business could be much more staggering that you might imagine.

Now, think about how many other areas of sales dysfunction exist in your sales team’s day-to-day efforts.  What’s going on in their prospecting efforts, their presentation approach, their objection management efforts, their negotiation steps, and in their attempts to close?  In addition, what are they doing at those trade shows?  What does their pre-call preparation process look like?  How do their follow-up efforts stack up?  How much training has gone into any of these areas for your people?

It is abundantly clear that an uneducated or under-trained sales force is considerably expensive to your organization.  In this economy where many companies are seeing fewer sales opportunities and much greater hesitance and fear in the marketplace into which they sell, any mediocrity in the sales force becomes extremely costly!

In this example, the worst part was that the salesman just didn’t know any better. Why?  Nobody taught him how to do his job as a professional.  Instead they simply said to get out and sell something!  At this point, he is left to learn on his own how to do a better job and uncover true opportunity.

The investment you make in training your people will bare substantial returns if it is consistent, strategic, up-to-date, and actionable!  On the other hand, the cost of not consistently training your salespeople can be invisible but nonetheless, extreme!