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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?

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”.

Be Your BEST!

picture of happy business team celebrating victory in office

In today’s competitive market, none of us have time for mediocrity or half heated efforts from our sales and service teams.  We need to be fighting for every inch of ground.  We need our people to be their absolute BEST with no excuses.

Why?  Most companies are facing fewer opportunities to land new business from both new and existing customers this year.  To use a baseball analogy, we are all getting less “at bats” this year.  Here is the brutal fact that we all need to face:  If you do not improve your skills while “in the batter’s box,” you will score far less this year.  That leads to less commission dollars for salespeople and less sales and profits for the companies that employ them.  Now, throw in the desperation that may creep into the entire organization to make sales and you will see that margins start to get compromised as prices are dropped and all sorts of justifications are made to do so.  The company culture starts to get challenged due to inevitable cut-backs and staff reductions.  What a mess!

Here is just one way to begin to right the ship.  Make sure that you raise the bar in all that you so!  Make it impossible for your prospects, customers, and clients to even think about doing business with anyone else.  You need to be (and expect from all around you) only the BEST!  No excuses…no blame.  Just the BEST!

In giving thought to this article, I thought I would offer my thoughts based upon an acronym of that word; BEST!  Read on and relate the following ideas to you and your organization.

B—Belief

It is very common for those in your organization to begin to have thoughts that challenge their basic belief in the company, the products, the pricing, their colleagues, the leadership, the marketplace, the customers and more during tougher economic times.  Yet, it is this belief that drives your organizations success now more than ever.  Belief is the cornerstone of confidence.  Your entire team needs to feel that they are in the right place, at the right time, with the right company, the right products/services and the right prices, selling into the right marketplace to the right people.  When that confidence isn’t BEAMING at every “touch point” in your organization, difficult times are not far behind.

So…eyes open…ears open!  Pay attention or pay the price!  Negativity and pessimism in your sales and service departments today are exponentially more dangerous than ever.

You need 100% buy-in and 100% belief!  Raise the bar on your communication and your visibility.  Engage your team in twice daily huddles.  Spend 15 minutes every morning reinforcing the importance of their efforts for the day ahead of them and 15 minutes every evening validating and recognizing the warriors for the battles they fought today!  Your involvement as a leader will drive out those who are lost and drive IN those who are destined to carry you and your organization to greatness!

Attitude is one of the key fundamentals to all success. And belief drives attitude!  Remember the old adage that states, “Whether you think you can or your think you can’t…you’re right!”  Everywhere a sales professional looks today, he/she is bombarded with the doomsday predictions of the press, the pundits, and (unfortunately) even those closest to him such as colleagues, family, friends, and neighbors.  In that sea of negativity there needs to be a lighthouse that marks their bearings; a beacon of hope that they are on the right track.  Key in on the BELIEF of your people.  Before you do, however, check into your own belief level….it might need a tune-up as well!

E—Everything Matters

Several books have been written over the past few years in the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” collection.  With all due respect to those words of wisdom, you need to understand that those books were written when the sun was shining and the economy was stronger than today!  So, find a spot on the shelf (or in the “round file”) file those books and understand that everything matters today.

We are doing business in a world today where access to information (and your competition) is as easy as firing up a laptop.  Customers are barraged daily with options as to who to do business with.  Our competitors are doing desperate things, chasing all that moves, dropping price, and challenging our customers’ belief in us!  We simply cannot stand by and sing let that happen.  This is war and everything matters!  Every penny of our margins need to be justified today!  Every ounce of customer loyalty needs to be earned at every possible level.  When it comes down to a choice between US or THEM, we need to have not one or two, but 10-20 examples of differentiation and value!  And as small as some of them may seem, all of them add up to more wins and less losses.  So…here are a few examples for your sales efforts today:

Sales: 

Voicemail–Outbound-Only the sharpest, most focused voicemails are to be left.  Remember the main reason that we leave voicemails is to get a call back.  Be clear, be concise, and be prepared to compel them into the action you desire—a return call!

Voicemail-Inbound-Pick up your telephone (cell phone and desk phone) and change that voicemail NOW!  I’ll bet it has not been changed in ages.  You can stand out with freshness in your message.  Just think, your prospect, customer, or client is on the phone

with an opportunity for you.  What do you wish to convey?  Mediocrity, same-ol-same-ol, indifference OR energy, passion, creativity, and excitement.  Your choice!

Email-For those of you who thought email was a fad, bad news!  Email has become a communication tool that has, arguably revolutionized the way that companies (salespeople) and customers do business.  It has, in my opinion, become one of the biggest communication crutches for salespeople today.  While I believe that there is extreme value in e-communication as a tool today, it all too often is overused, misused, and abused by marketers and salespeople.  Pay close attention to the emails that are being sent out to your customers.  Don’t rely on an email to express your emotions, your passion and your value.  Don’t simply “put something out there” via email to judge your customer’s reaction.  It is simply too easy (on both ends) to hide emotions, misconstrue agendas, and convey false genuineness via email today.  Tighten up your email (spelling and grammar) and, whenever possible pick up the phone or get off your butt and CONNECT!!

Process-Are the ways that you go about your sales process today as effective as they need to be for your prospects, customers, and clients in today’s world?  Too often, when I am wearing my coach/consultant hat, I see companies that approaching the marketplace today the same way that they have for the past several years.  Here is another newsflash:  Your prospects and customers today are buying differently and looking for more, for different, and (this hurts) they care less and less about you and your company!  Everyone is in survival mode.  Are you still following the same process as you have for years?  Are you still relying on your presentation or your PowerPoint?  Are the tactics you employ even relevant today?  It’s worthy of an overhaul wouldn’t you think?  Take your process apart and tighten it up NOW because your customer demands it and your competition might beat you to it.  Here is a tip:  Figure out what your buyers today need more than anything (not lower prices) and help them see how you deliver it better than anyone.  Stop selling and HELP THEM BUY!  Remember this; Safe trumps cheap!  Make your offer compelling and safe because your focus is on THEM and not you!

S—Step Up

Now is the time for everyone in your company to truly understand their role in the acquisition and retention of customers.  It is now time to work our butts off and to FIGHT!  That leaves no room for halfhearted effort and losers.  Sound too tough?  Too bad, it’s time to rise to the occasion.  If not now, when?

I was recently in the United Red Carpet Club in Chicago on a layover on a flight and saw an interview of Nick Saban, Head Coach of the Alabama college football team.  Although I was across the room and could not hear the message, it was being close captioned across the screen.  He was talking to the media about the expectations of the upcoming season.  He was discussing work ethic and what it would take to win a national title this year.  During this rant (and, although I could not hear him, it certainly looked like a passionate dissertation by an enthusiastic leader) Saban stated that the hard work and determination needs to “dominate the competition” in this league was extreme and (this was the part that I loved) what the players perception of hard work meant prior to coming to camp this year was irrelevant and non-consequential!  We need to raise it to an entire new level to compete and dominate in this division—and to win a national title.  Wow!

It’s time for all of us to step up.  Very few companies are escaping the grasp of this economic turmoil.  One thing that we all have in common is that we need to be more focused and more disciplined today to do the right things over and over and over today.  Self discipline has been defined as “doing the things that you need to do, when you need to do them, whether you want to or not!”  At what point in the past 10 years has this statement been more relevant than today.

T—Tenacity

Tenacity is defined as holding firmly, persistent, or stubborn.  When I think of a tenacious salesperson, I often get a picture in my mind of a dog firmly latched onto the cuff of the pants of someone, never letting go.  In this day and age, the attitude and ability of your people simply to not give up when the going gets difficult is so important.

Several years ago, I read study by the Harvard Business Review that identified the two main characteristics that stood out in top sales professionals.  Out of all of the possible variables in skill sets these two areas were the most common:  Empathy and Persistence!

In other words, top sellers as a whole had a variety of skills and many different activities that helped them achieve success but it was the willingness and ability to understand and relate to the customer and their needs coupled with their dogged determination (their TENACITY) to see to it that they helped the customer make the purchase that separated them from the pack.

So, when you set your targets, your goals this year, did you do them in pencil?  Did you decide that you would ebb and flow your sales and profits based upon what the marketplace would bare or did you make a DECISION as to what you would accomplish?  Do the salespeople on your team see a sale all the way through or do they tend to lose faith when the going gets tough?  Do they strategize and execute or wring their hands and wait?  If you or your salespeople manage accounts and the ongoing sales in those accounts, do you approach the success of your clientele with tenacity, not letting them give up on themselves (and eventually you) or do you simply wait for the inevitable “apology call” Pay attention!  Everyone that you lose during these times is more potentially devastating—don’t give up…don’t let go…failure is not an option.

Your company, your employees, your customers, your family and you all deserve one thing today.  And that is your BEST!  So, take a moment and ask yourself a question right now.  For every move that you have made today, have you offered your best?  Anything short of that simply will not do!

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!!

Make an IMPACT!

fine image of classic 3d newton cradle background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of YOU!

Power of YOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer Service MAGIC!!!

Customer Service

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

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

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

Managing Expectations

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

Assessing Needs

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

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

Growth vs. Maintenance

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

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

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

Communication

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

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

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

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

The Top 10 Things That Top Sales People Do

Shot of two businessmen shaking hands

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

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

1. They Take Full Responsibility

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

2. They Guard Their Attitudes with Their Lives

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

3. They Feed Their Brains-Every Day

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

4. Plan-Prepare-Practice

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

5. They Brand Themselves in Their Marketplace 

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

6. They are Willing to Lose

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

7. They Recognize Opportunity and Take ACTION Faster

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

8. They are a Resource

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

9. They Take Time to Re-Charge

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

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

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

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

Getting out of your Comfort Zone—SHAKE Things Up!

out of comfort zone

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

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

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

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

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

S-Set or Revisit Your Goals for the Year

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

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

H-Have a Solid Game Plan

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

A-Arrive Earlier to the Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

K-Kick up Some New Activity

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

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

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

E-Enjoy the Results of Your Work!

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

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

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

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