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Manager Vs. Coach – A HUGE Difference!!

Stop Managing and Start Coaching

The word “coaching” is starting to be used so often these days that it is truly losing its meaning and effectiveness. Too many mangers/leaders are using the word in an attempt to separate themselves. Words and phrases, however, do nothing to separate those who can and do from everyone else. ACTION is the thing that does that! Below are several actions that you as a business leader can do to stop talking it and to start walking it—Become a coach to your people and they will be your people for a long, long time:

Always Look for and Draft Top Talent

As a coach, you want to give your team the right staff of players so that they can consistently win in the marketplace. The best coaches realize that they must always be looking for and recruiting new stars to their teams. New players keep the team fresh and on their toes. New players to the team may replace existing non-productive players or may help to drive those existing players to new levels of productivity.

A coach never grows his team just for the sake of growing it. It doesn’t always take more players to win, but it always takes the right players. A coach is always looking for the key players to add to his team to help bring it to the next level.

Set Expectations Up Front

The coach brings every member onto his team with open eyes. He works very hard to set mutual expectations up front with his new players. He makes sure that his players know that he will expect big things from them-that they will work harder on his team than they ever have anywhere else in the past-that they will be measured and held accountable to always be improving and bettering themselves-that they will be held to the highest standards of professionalism-that they are the most important people in the company and should regard what it is they do as such-that FUN is not a four letter word-and that Attitude + Skills + Activity will be the formula that they will grow by on this team.

The coach also sets the expectations that his players have of him and the company right up front as well. He allows the players to “hold his feet to the fire” on issues such as attitude, communication, measurement, training, field coaching, etc. All new players know very clearly what their plans are and what they can expect upon completion of all assigned tasks. The team knows that the coach will be held accountable to help them reach their goals. The coach will not let down any of his players when it comes to making sure that they do the things necessary to reach their own individual goals

Have a Clear Plan for Every Player

The best coaches always make sure that every player on their team has a very clear and defined game plan to success. They realize that if they can keep their players focused on their key roles in the outcome for the team, that each player would have a much better chance of winning. The teams that consistently win do so because they have a very clear plan that is broken into individual responsibilities.

A coach will make sure that his players know what to do from the time that they come into the office in the morning until the time they leave at night. A good coach goes the extra mile in explaining each individual game plan to his players. A good coach leaves nothing to chance. A good coach works with his people individually on their game plans so that he can improve his players’ skills as well as their need for personal expertise. A good coach realizes that a player without a plan has no way to mark his/her successes as they come.

Always Training, Teaching, Guiding, Coaching

A coach is a teacher, a mentor, a leader. The best coaches are the ones who are on the field with their players every day working with them on their skills. The best coaches schedule time every day for training of their people. The skills necessary for success must be taught and practiced regularly. People do not learn these things intuitively. Coaches realize that most players, given the choice, would rather not practice their skills. This is not to say that they do not want to succeed. They merely will take the past of least resistance most times. (It is human nature.)

It is important for salespeople to do what it is that their coach wants them to do-but even more important that his people WANT to do what he wants them to do. Therefore, it is equally important that, as coaches, we work hard on showing those on our teams that it is part of the entire culture to train, practice and perform every day. The best teams in history did not stop practicing because they started winning.  They did not stop practicing because they got some good players. Solid coaching requires a discipline towards constant improvement.

Constantly Build and Strengthen Relationships

Even the best players do not respond if there is no trust. A good coach realizes that it may take months-even years to build a solid foundation of trust but only moments to destroy it. Coaching sometimes requires tough choices. Good coaches always make sure that the choices they make do not compromise the trust that they have built. Good coaches realize that it isn’t always about being the nice guy-but is about being fair and honest with the entire team.

Solid relationships are built on communication. If there is not a solid culture based upon communication, it is very difficult to even recognize the challenges, and thus, almost impossible to cure the problem.

Taking the time to forge solid relationships with his people is one of the things that a great coach does best. People will walk through fire for a leader they believe in. People tend to trust and believe in those who trust and believe in them. This goes beyond words.

Are You ASKING For It?

ask for the sale

Here is an interesting question:  Why is it that we, as salespeople spend so long, invest so much time, energy, preparation, and effort on the phone with the prospective and existing customer during the sales cycle only to let the sale fade away or go to the competition?  Why is it that we place so much emphasis and commitment on the process of moving the ball down the field but yet design so very few plays to actually take the ball into the end zone?

We need to realize that whenever we do not actually attempt to create some closure–ask for the business–we literally destroy (or at least taint) all that we have worked for throughout the sales process.  We give up the connection and trust that we have built, the relationships that we have developed, the enthusiasm we have created, and the momentum of the process.  We simply let the sale wither away and die or get taken over by another more assertive, focused salesperson that was prepared (AND took the leap of faith) to ASK for the business!

Do you feel that you offer such irrefutable evidence of value throughout your sales presentations that the customer will simply give in?  Do you feel that your features, advantages, and benefits (FAB points) are so compelling that prospects don’t need to be asked to buy them?  Do you feel that you will offend your prospect or customer if you were to actually ask them to buy from you?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need to GET OVER IT! (and possibly consider another career!) Here are a few very key RULES when it comes to closing the sale:

Rule #1—You MUST ask for the business!

Rule #2—You MUST earn the right to ask for the business!

Rule #3—The customer knows why you’re there!

Rule #4—Sometimes the answer is NO! Deal with it!

Rule #5—If you cannot, will not, or do not ask for the business, someone else will!

Ok, so why does it happen?  Why do many salespeople have a hesitance to ask for the business?


It is my belief that most salespeople do not ask for the YES

because they are afraid to hear the NO! 

Here are some other reasons

Little to no belief in their value proposition, their product, or their service.

  •     A lack of confidence or self-worth.
  •     No connection with the customer, thus no trust.
  •     The customer is in control-asking all of the questions.
  •     The salesperson doesn’t feel like they have earned the right yet.
  •     The salesperson has not discovered any motivators to create urgency.
  •     No time-lines have been discussed throughout the process.
  •     There is no defined sales process that the salesperson can follow.
  •     And many others

The good news is that ALL of these are within the control of the salesperson—the right salesperson.

FACT: is that it is not the responsibility of the customers to close themselves.  It is the job of the salesperson to get that done!  You are not paid to be a professional educator, a professional presenter, a hesitant visitor, or a walking-talking brochure-website.  You are paid to move the ball down the field and to score.  That’s it!!

The web site, the brochures, the advertising, and other marketing pieces often have very little to do with the Call to Action…but you do!  Your territory, products, prices, and your competition are what they are and they do not control your success…you do!  The prospective customer knows that you are there for a reason and that reason is to make the sale. Often, the only thing that stands in the way is you!  Are you willing to make the changes necessary to stay in the game?  If so, take a look at a few suggestions:

Learn how to ask better (more focused) questions to pull out true motivations (Pains-Fears-Desires) from the prospect.  Get to the WHY behind their answers!  Ask questions to gauge the prospects level of interest, understanding, and continued engagement in the process such as “So far, so good?”  “Up to this point, what questions do you have?” “Does that make sense?”

Have a clear purpose for each and every call that you make on the prospect.  If you don’t understand what needs to be discovered /uncovered and agreed upon in the sales process, how will the customer?  Going on a call without a clearly defined purpose and a clearly prepared Call to Action wastes both your time and the prospect’s.

Learn to “set the pace” of the sales cycle from the beginning.  Be in control by constantly and relentlessly moving the deal forward by calling the shots.  Get in the habit of thinking—and asking—“So what’s our next step?”

5 Initiatives to Building a World Class Sales Team

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I’m sitting here in the Salt Lake City airport for a layover on my way back from Toledo, OH where I just wrapped up our Smart Selling Boot Camp. In this two day course, we do a deep dive on how to build and grow world class, productive sales forces. Every time I finish teaching one of these events, I always enjoy seeing the excitement of the attendees as they go back into their office and implement what they’ve learned. So, I thought I’d do a cliff notes version of some of the highlights from our Boot Camp course.

Regardless of industry, there are only 5 areas that we have to focus on when building a world-class sales organization:

1- Finding Good People

2- Getting Them to Join Our Team

3- Getting Them Trained and Producing

4- Growing Them into Top Producers

5- Keeping Them

In this article, let’s throw the tools in the box to help us out with the first two initiatives mentioned. In doing so, we can take the necessary steps to find good people and to get them to join our teams.

1. Finding Good People

The process of recruiting good talent to your organization is not one that often times happens by chance. Many companies get aggressive about recruiting only when they need somebody to add to their team or when they need to replace somebody who has just left their team. Recruiting is a process, not an event. It must be ongoing and continuous. Can you imagine only going after a new customer when you lose an existing one?

I believe that too many companies out there today are not in a constant hunt for talent, even when they are not happy with the production of some of those currently on their team. When you are dealing with a sales team, YOU ARE NEVER FULLY STAFFED!

For many sales managers and leaders of sales organizations, the recruiting process is treated as a necessary evil and something to “get out of the way as quickly a possible.” Often this is the case because it is the goal of that individual to build sales. We believe that the sales manager’s job is not to grow sales. Rather, it is their job to grow salespeople, both in quality and quantity, on a regular basis. It takes time and effort to build a pipeline of business and it also takes time and effort to build a pipeline of top notch sales candidate prospects that you must actively be courting for your team.

In order to do this, you must first be very clear on what this person looks like. Have you put together a profile for this person? What characteristics does this person have that make them successful? What type of experience does he/she have? What soft selling skills do they possess? What specific selling skills do they have? What computer skills do they have/need? What type of communicator are they? You need to write down, in bullet point format the profile of the type of individual that you would recognize as a hitter for your team. Once that is in writing, get it in as many hands as possible. Let your entire staff know what you are looking for. Let you clients know, your vendors know, your entire network. If you are the only person in your company who knows what your idea of the ideal sales candidate looks like, you seriously limit your chances of finding them. The more that know you are looking, and what you are looking for, the better your chances.

As a salesperson, or with salespeople currently working for you, you realize that you must identify prospective client candidates and then methodically look to get them to do business with you. This is often done through a series of touches such as prospecting calls, e-mails, faxes, lunches, meetings, presentations, etc. Most salespeople continue this courting process for days, weeks, months, and sometimes-even years to get the right prospect to do business with them.

When bringing new talent to our team, we must take the same approach. Once you have identified some prospective sales animals that you would love to have on your team, regardless of where they currently work or what they currently are doing or making, you must begin the same process. Remember, the best prospective new salespeople for you are probably already working in sales, making a good living and are not necessarily looking to change careers. How will you initiate contact with these people? How will you look to set the initial meeting to introduce your company to them? What will you say? How will you overcome their objections? What questions will you ask? How will you maintain contact with them after the first meeting? This makes sense when going after one account doesn’t it? Then why don’t we prepare this way when we are going after a sales professional that could possibly secure the next 20 of those accounts for our company?

The process of continually looking for and recruiting top talent to our teams is imperative when building a world-class sales organization. In order to have the best people constantly surrounding you in your company, start looking now and do not ever stop!

2. Getting Them to Join Our Team

Now that we have spent countless hours, days, and months hunting our prey, we finally have him/her in our sights. They have agreed to sit down with us and have a formal interview. Let’s go back over to our “big-customer prospect” analogy for a moment. Once our salespeople have identified a new prospective BIG client and set an initial sales presentation meeting with them, we fully expect our salesperson to do their homework thoroughly. We want them to know as much as they possibly can about this company and this prospect before they meet with them. We expect them to be fully prepared to ask all the right questions to find out all of the prospects needs, pains, fears, and desires. We fully expect our salesperson to be armed with appropriate responses to all of the potential questions and/or objections that the prospect may have. Additionally, we will have the full expectations that our salesperson has prepared and practiced a very thorough and professional presentation of our company, it’s products/services, features, advantages, and benefits. This is only natural when we think about it in our sales process.

However, when we attract the potential big-dog sales professional to our company to come in and take a look at what we are about, we often times wing it. My mind plays back for me the hundreds of sales interviews that I have witnessed where the sales manager grabs the candidate’s resume, gives it the once over, and then proceeds to find out a little about the candidate while he prepares to vomit all of the reasons why the candidate should come to work for him.

Sitting in front of the sales manager is a person who could potentially create the next 20 big clients for the company and the sales manager decides to fly by the seat of his/her pants. Very little preparation was done prior to meeting with this candidate. Questions were not prepared to discover the true person; their needs, pains, fears, and desires in regards to a career change. Answers to potential questions/objections from the candidate were not prepared and practiced. A very thorough presentation of the features, advantages, and benefits of employment with your firm was not put together in advance and practiced for a flawless delivery. No communication was prepared to show this candidate how we are different, better, stronger, and more beneficial to work for than the candidate’s current employer.

It is our belief that the interview and hiring process is the most important SALE that you, as a company leader or sales manager can make for your company. This process must be prepared well in advance if you are to have a shot at the top talent. Even more so, this must be a system that flows throughout your entire organization. Your entire company must present an air of success and enthusiasm about the workplace-especially when you are bringing in the top candidates for the initial interview. Ask yourself these questions: “Would I be impressed with my company if I was recruited? Would I be excited to come to work here? Would I pull up stakes in my current successful career to come work here?” If the answer to any of these questions is yes, ask WHY, and then work to build on that. If the answer to any of these question is NO or I’M NOT SURE, get to work.

Many sales managers think that money is the only thing that will lure a top hitter away from his/her current career. With lack of preparation, this could very well be true. If that is the case, it’s time for a DIFFERENT APPROACH!! If you take the time to thoroughly find out what a potential candidate is looking for out of his/her perfect sales opportunity and then take the time to truly find out what they are missing from their current employer or opportunity, only then can you design a proper plan for them with you. Assume nothing! You can earn the right to build their dream opportunity for them only when you shut up and LISTEN…. just like in a sale. If all parties at the table want the same thing, a deal can be made. Don’t worry about price until you have established value in a sale likewise, don’t worry about compensation until you have established value in the interview.

Finally, just one more thing to remember about the recruiting and hiring process.

Regardless of your planning and preparation, you will make a bad hire from time to time. Do not become hesitant to take action and make a decision! You do not have a crystal ball. You cannot predict the future. There is no guarantee that every choice that you make will be the right one. There is however a guarantee that if you do not do the things mentioned in the paragraphs above, you will a have much harder time getting your sales team to where you want it. Use the same planning, preparation, and tenacity to identify, hunt, and land top sales professionals for your team that you expect your people to do to identify, hunt, and land big clients. GET BUSY!

Assume Nothing!

The Top Ten Assumptions That Can (And Do!) Kill Sales Careers

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In today’s marketplace where there is more access to information, more knowledge about pricing and competition, and quite frankly, more choices for your prospects, customers, and clients, salespeople need to make all the right moves…ALL THE TIME!  Here at Sales Coach International, we are carrying around the banner that says “Assume Nothing.”  In order to illustrate the importance of this, here are the top ten assumptions that salespeople can make that can kill their career:

  1. Features Sell–  Salespeople of today go out into the marketplace and spew the many features of the products and services that they offer.  We call this “Showing up and Throwing Up!”  The people that buy your products/svcs. do not do so because of the features that your product/svc offers but rather the benefits that those features can bring to them.  Here is a solid drill for you.  Write this down:

“NOBODY WANTS TO BUY WHAT I’M SELLING!!”

Now that we have established that the customer doesn’t want to buy the bells and whistles that your product/svc offers, stop assuming that they will draw the line between what your product/svc offers and what it is that they need.  So how do we do this?  It’s easy:  At the end of every feature statement you need to bridge to the next statement with

“….so what that means to you is this!”

What comes out of your mouth next is the benefit statement that truly is the motivation for your customer or prospect to buy!  Don’t assume that your prospects, customers, or clients will know how to tie the two together without your help!

  1. Everyone Loves Small Talk– There have been many books written on the value of building rapport with a prospect, customer, or clients in order to gain their trust. While I agree with this, I find that too many salespeople feel that every sales interaction needs to start with the obligatory round of small talk about the weather, sports, recent news, or some other plastic nonsense.  Why is this?  It is my belief that salespeople do this for their own comfort only.

There is undoubtedly a need for some training in this area.  Small talk is just that:  Small Talk!  This type of banter is typically teed up so that the salesperson can gain some insight as to the mood, needs, style, and interests of the prospect, customer, or client.  However, it has its place.  Realize when getting down to business is necessary.  Realize when the person on the other end is faking it along with you and have the presence of mind to move on to the business at hand.

Once you have established some sort of relationship with a prospect, customer, or client (whether that is after a few minutes or a few months) the conversations should revolve around the things that they want to address, not the other way around!  Remember, the best way to get them to trust you is to get them talking about themselves, their issues, their challenges, their stuff!  If you still feel the need to have some initial banter before getting down to business, make sure it is about something that is important to them.

Don’t know what that is?  Here’s a suggestion:  Go out right now and buy “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” by Harvey Mackay.  In this book you will find The Mackay 66.  These are 66 individual points that sales reps of  Mackay Envelope were to find out about their prospects, customers, and/or clients.  With even 50% of this information, you could not help but have A) a strong relationship with this person and B) many topics with which to focus your attention and conversation during the sales process.

Most importantly, do not assume that you need to “tenderize the meat before you throw it into the skillet!”  Salespeople work very hard to get the attention of their prospects, customers, and clients regularly.  Once you have earned it, don’t spend too much of your time (and theirs) on non-relevant issues.

  1. Your Time Frame is the Same as Your Customer’s- I have seen countless salespeople spend many hours doing all of the things necessary to get a meeting with a prospect or customer. Once the meeting is set, they prepare a great value proposition and present their case very well.  In the best of these circumstances, they indeed find a prospect or customer interested in potentially pursuing some future possibility of doing business with them. (How was that for a bland, non-committal statement)  The meeting ends with everyone somewhat enthusiastic about the potential of doing something together.  Now…fast-forward a couple of weeks.  Your calls are not being returned!  Your e-mails aren’t either.  You are ready to move forward but the prospect has dropped off the face of the earth.  You have already counted this one as a top-level opportunity and told everyone it was in the bag.  What the heck happened?

One of the biggest assumptions that I see salespeople making in the field today is that the customer has the same interest in buying from you that you have in selling to him/her.  It needs to be understood that a customer does things for their reasons, not yours!  However, if those reasons (their motivators) are not discussed during the initial meeting, the salesperson has little to re-address the customer with when reviving interest later in the sales cycle.  In other words, we cannot assume that the customer will make all the right moves to buy from us at the speed and rate, which we choose.  Therefore, we need to ask appropriate questions to gauge and perhaps even set the customer’s urgency.

  1. All of Your Accounts Love You!-This is one of the most dangerous assumptions that can be made in today’s marketplace.  Yet there are salespeople out there that are taking their customer’s loyalty for granted even as you read this!  Think about what it is that you do for a living.  As a sales professional, part of your business life is dedicated to continually calling on and trying to capture part of the marketshare of your competitors.  You are continually introducing yourself and your company to the customers that are currently doing business with your competitors.  As a result, you are looking for a few of them to turn a cheating eye toward you and your company to “give you a shot” at earning their business.

Here is a news flash for you: 

Your competition is doing the same thing with your customers as you read this….and they just might be better at it than you!!

Therefore, we, as salespeople can never take our customer’s business for granted.  We need to be continually looking for ways to add value, over-deliver, and strengthen our relationships.  Here is a great drill:  Imagine that this scenario will follow every interaction that you have with your existing customers or clients:  One hour after you leave their office, they will be in a room with 100 of your top prospects.  What do you want them to be saying!!

  1. Your Customer Will Refer You To Others– Referrals to new prospective business from happy customers are one of the hallmarks of sales success that we all strive for as sale professionals. However, too many salespeople assume that their customers will automatically think of them, and then subsequently refer them when the opportunity presents itself.  WRONG!!  How many times have we wished for more referrals from our customers?  How many times have we hoped that the customer will think of us when they are networking with their colleagues?  Below, please find my Big 5 Rules for getting constant streams of referrals:
  • You must ASK for them—A lot!!
  • You must EARN the right to ask for them by over-delivering!
  • You must make it easy to refer!
  • You must professionally follow up on every referral!
  • Say Thank You!! (In different ways each time!)

If you make all of the right moves, a customer should turn into a raving fan for you and your company.  However, even the word should states there is an assumption.  So, leave nothing to chance and earn the right to ask, make it easy to refer, follow up on every one, and thank your customer from the bottom of your heart.  The best of the best in the field of sales realize that every great customer is worth several more great customers.  But, like everything else, it rarely happens on auto-pilot!

  1. Customers are Impressed With Your Knowledge– Zig Ziglar said it best when he said “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” One of the biggest faults of salespeople today is confusing the need to tell with the desire to sell.  Although there is a time to develop your prospect, customer, and client’s trust in you based upon your knowledge, that time is later in the process once other issues have been addressed.

As a buyer yourself, how impressed are you with all of the techno-babble that some salespeople feel they must subject you to?  Does this info draw you in or push you away?   Are you impressed with the salesperson who tells you what he/she knows or works (through questions) to find out what it is that you need?

Don’t assume that the buyer needs all the info that you possess.  Instead, find out what they need, and then meet those needs.

  1. My Product/Service Meets All of My Prospect’s Needs– We’d all love to think so, but that isn’t so!  Our product or service may not meet the needs or desires of the prospects, customers or clients that we are addressing today.  Sometimes the answer is no!  Sometimes they don’t qualify!  Sometimes, we don’t qualify!  Sometimes, there is no match!

Try this as a drill:  Start every initial meeting to introduce a new idea, product, or service with a variation of this statement:

“It is very important to us that we have a solid match with the companies or people that we do business with. Therefore, after reviewing your company’s needs, if it appears that we don’t have a fit, on your part or our’s, I will get out of your hair…time is money!  However, if, after an appropriate mutual assessment, it appears that we do have a match…AND, DUE TO INITIAL RESEARCH,  I THINK WE MIGHT, then I will show you how we can ___________________,” then I might ask you to explore with me how we may do business together today.  Is that fair?

If, after this initial discovery period, you discover that your prospects needs can not be met or are not consistent with what your company can and will provide, then your duty as a professional is to walk away.  If it appears, however, that you do have a potential fit, it is incumbent upon you as a sales professional to design a value proposition that will meet their highest value needs and lead them to the decision to do business with you. (Yes, this is the time to close!)

  1. The Customer Never Changes– In the past couple of years, many salespeople have been facing the changing of the guard inside their client companies. The person with whom they had the strong relationship suddenly has been let go, replaced, or has left the company.  In some instances, management makes the change in such positions because of the relationships that exist, thus making sure that all vendors are getting a shot.

I have seen many salespeople lose some of their bigger accounts because of these things.  What do we learn from this?  E—X—P—A—N—D your circle of influence within you accounts.  Get to know more than one contact or purchaser within the account.  Take an entire department out to lunch.  Ask to meet others within the company.  Earn your way into the doors of others.  Become a valued resource to many levels of the company.  Earn your way into the top offices and meet the decision makers.  Send thank you notes to everyone.  Make sure the buzz in that company regarding your service or product is about YOU!!  Don’t assume that your customer will never change…just be better prepared for when it happens!

  1. The Customer is Interested in My Issues– I read an interesting analogy recently in a book entitled “How to Become a Rainmaker” by Jeffery Fox.  The analogy was about a babysitter.  He stated there are two basic rules that a babysitter should follow.  The first rule states that no matter how much trouble the kids gave you while the parents were away, keep it to yourself.  When the parents come home after a much needed night away from the children and ask, “How were they?” the answer is always “Great-No problems!”  Rule number two states that the babysitter should leave the house a little cleaner than they found it.  Making sure that these two rules are followed should assure that the babysitter will have a repeat engagement with that family.  Why? Because she sells a relaxed evening and a clean house (Benefits!)

How does this relate to sales?  Once a customer hires you to do a job (create a solution), they don’t want to hear your problems about getting it done.  They don’t care!  Do a great job, do it on time, do it on budget, don’t complain, and give the customer a little extra.  This is the blueprint for customer satisfaction.

Your prospects, customers and clients don’t want to buy what you are selling! (Remember that from above?) In fact, they don’t care much about you at all.  They don’t care about your sales contests, your problems with traffic, your personal issues, or why your shipments are late.  They only care about themselves and their problems.  You are in front of them only because they believe that you might be able to help better their situation.  You are there by invitation only.  It is your duty to focus only on the customer. You must be on “high receive!”   You are there to ask questions about them, their issues, their pains, their fears, their desires, and their highest value needs.  And you are there to listen!!  Be very conscious of making sure that most of your sentences have a “you” in them rather than an “I.”  Never assume that they want to hear about you and your issues!

  1. Your Research Will Give You All The Ammo You Need­In today’s information filled world, it is much easier for the sales professional to gain access to vital data before meeting the prospect or customer. The best salespeople do a thorough amount of research to get well armed to fight the battle with the customer.  However, what you do (or don’t do) with that information is imperative to the sales call.

The fact that you have access to a lot of information does not negate your need, as a sales professional, to do a very thorough needs analysis with your prospect or customer on the sales call.  In fact, our experience has shown us that often times, the information discovered during the initial research is incorrect or outdated.  But besides that, lets remember one of the main reasons that we ask questions throughout the sales process is to show the prospect, customer, or client that we are focused on them and their needs. The questions will show them that we care.

We have all heard the old adage regarding “keeping a few cards up your sleeve.”  This is very appropriate in regards to pre-meeting info.  Knowledge truly is power if it is used appropriately.  Remember, the best source for the things that we truly need to know is the person or persons with whom you will be striking the deal.  Never assume that you don’t need to ask!

Be careful with these assumptions people.  Make sure that you go into every sales encounter prepared to make all of the right moves and do not get bogged down with assumptions such as these.  Many of us need to go back to our roots as junior salespeople and “Be just Dumb Enough (or is that Smart Enough) to assume nothing.”

 

Is it OK to use the “F” word?

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When It Is Okay To Fail

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

When It Is NOT Okay to Fail

It is not okay to fail when you haven’t given your best effort. You may fail here, but this is not an honorable failure.  It is not okay to fail when you have something left to give, when you keep something in reserve, when you save yourself. You may fail here, but this failure is not acceptable when spending yourself may have meant a different outcome.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t prepared yourself for the game, when you haven’t done your homework. You may fail here, but lack of preparedness is not an acceptable reason to fail. It isn’t okay to fail when you have only done what is expected. Conformity is sure path to failure and to mediocrity. It isn’t okay to fail because you were focused on some big idea and you have ignored the details that make up the execution of that idea. Success is in the idea and in its execution.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t used every resource to win. It isn’t okay to fail because you didn’t ask others for the help that would have made the difference.  It isn’t okay to fail if you don’t learn something from the failure.  It isn’t okay to fail because you quit trying. It isn’t okay to fail because you quit when the road got rough and the effort seemed too much. It is never okay to fail to get back up.

-Gerry Layo, CEO Sales Coach International

Be Exceptional….The Small Stuff Matters

small stuff

So much is taught about the “big parts of the game” such as the cold call, the pitch or presentation, the sales cycle, working a pipeline, overcoming objections, and closing.  And yet, with all of this knowledge and training, the majority of salespeople still have difficulty managing the entire process through to the finish line. At the same time, you will find there is a small group of salespeople that focus on, what most would consider to be the small stuff.  What types of things are these?  Here is a list of five of the little things that matter in the profession of sales:

  1. Schedule prospecting time every day!
  2. Build and consistently use a referral generation process.
  3. Use “Target and Personal Marketing Campaigns.”
  4. Say Thank You—A Lot!
  5. Do what YOU say YOU are going to do.

On the golf course, it has been my putting game that has held me back from some great scores.  While I hit the ball farther and more consistently sound than most of those with whom I play, it is often my putting that may cost me a few bucks in a match.  (What, do you think that we don’t throw down a few bets?  C’mon!)  While I often struggle with the little things, others excel at them.  As they have greater confidence in “the scoring zone,” it all too often becomes my “nervous zone” and thus, where it counts, I am at risk.   In the marketplace, I suggest that, as sales professionals, we need to make sure that we are focused on ALL of the things that are necessary for our success.  The little things are what separates us from the crowd.  The good news is that, with a little work, you will build the confidence in your “scoring zone” to consistently achieve greater sales results.  So…Sweat the Small Stuff.

A Call to ACTION!

There is something very refreshing about those who take action. People make investments daily in lots of “things” designed to make themselves and their companies better. Whether it is a gym membership, a training course, a book, a new piece of technology or something else, we make purchases regularly designed to increase our output or improve us in some way. And yet, it becomes more and more evident to me that people often do not invest the primary ingredient needed to get the true benefit from their investment. That ingredient is Committed, Focused ACTION!

I just recently ran of my Sales Manager Boot Camps in Omaha, Nebraska. It was a terrific event with attendees from several different industries. Not unlike many of my training programs, each person in attendance had wonderful and very enthusiastic things to say about the Boot Camp, my delivery style, and the content. But one company in particular has since then (a mere two weeks ago) taken massive action on the introduced strategies and ideas and has also put into immediate use many the tools that were offered.

Wade Mayfield and his team Thermal Services in Omaha, NE have immediately put the Sales Coach International Seller Rating/Ranking Grid that was introduced at Boot Camp into to immediate use. They have (in two short weeks) had every leader on their team in every division of their organization (sales and non-sales) break down the important factors of Attitudes, Skills, and Activities necessary to perform and to thrive in his organization. Subsequent to this analysis, each leader has assessed and rated each player on his/her team in each of these dimensions, identifying strengths and opportunities for growth. These manager/leaders now have a road map to coach and improve their people’s performances daily through focused field training and coaching, one to one meetings, Individual Development Plans (IDPs), and other coaching initiatives….and they are being held accountable to doing just that.

In addition to the above, one division of the company through one manager (Phillip) is in the midst of developing a series of key Pay Attention! points” and key questions (specifically introduced in the Boot Camp) for what would typically be considered a non-selling position (plumbers) to identify additional opportunities in every call. Also, one manager in particular has taken to heart many of the strategies that were introduced at Boot Camp regarding the creation of more powerfully focused Sales Meetings. He (Lucas) has, since Boot Camp, invited a vendor to be a guest speaker at one of his sales meetings and, in advance of the meeting, actually inspected what he expected with that vendor. He made the vendor lay out a specific plan of action and agenda to his meeting (vs. the “shoot the BS” meetings of the past) and rolled in the vendor’s information with his specific application and execution training. How do I know this? I received a detailed Thank You card from that manager yesterday outlining his successes. Action, action, action!

There are many more examples of massive action from Wade and his team of rock stars that I can cite from just the past two weeks. The tip of the spear (acting as the catalyst) for this action has been Wade himself. Wade attended the Boot Camp along with all of his managers while in the middle of a major physical move of his office. In fact, after seeing me speak at a Vistage meeting, Wade was the catalyst that was instrumental in getting the actual event put together in the first place, securing the training venue and sparking a group of CEOs to take part by enrolling their leader/managers.

I just spent an hour on the phone with Wade and his partner, Barry going over each of the action steps that they have taken in the past two weeks and identifying the plans for each of his leaders based upon the Boot Camp. His entire organization now has a clearer vision and set of marching orders based upon the action of the leaders—not the training alone. Wade and his team invested thousands of dollars and two days of their lives to be exposed to new leadership initiatives at my Boot Camp. Since then, they are ensuring a climb to $20 million in sales this year through committed, focused action on what it is that they learned. I would place my bets on Thermal Services growth this year and beyond.

So, what is it that you are missing in your expectations of results thus far this year? Where have you made an investment that is not paying off yet? Where can you apply some committed and focused ACTION in your life to spark your results?

  • That gym membership will not help your fitness and weight loss without you investing your efforts and action.
  • That training course you and your team attended means nothing without your investment in the changes and action identified.
  • The books and Cd’s on your desk will do nothing for you without you actually reading/listening to them and taking action on the ideas they offer.
  • Wanting, intending, thinking, wishing, and hoping are truly not ACTION WORDS and rarely, if ever, produce any change or positive results.

So….pick one area of your life (business or personal) and be “just dumb enough to believe” that taking ACTION will produce what you desire. Dive in! Get busy! Don’t over-think anything. Commit to spending at least 90 days on the change and the growth you desire and watch the results start to pile up. Be awesome, be courageous, and win on purpose!

Are you Just DUMB ENUFF to Believe?

Well, here we go!  I was recently asked if I would like to join a group of Sacramento business leaders in a quest to train for and ride in “America’s Most Beautiful Bike-Ride” which is a 100 mile ride around Lake Tahoe.  The event is on June 3rd and my first training ride EVER with a group is this morning and will be about 35 miles.  Actually, it will close to 45 by the time we ride to the starting point.  Now, this may sound fairly logical to you as we are shooting for 100 in a few short months.  But here is what you need to know:  I have NEVER ridden more than 20 miles!  Nonetheless, I have no doubt that I will be able to do this, and keep up with the majority of the group. Call it blind faith or dumb stubbornness but I see this belief in many entrepreneurs every day…just like this group!

What does it take to have the blind faith to begin a sales career?  There rarely is a curriculum that one gets exposed to extensively until they are “up to their necks in it.”  There is often very little training for the new salesperson outside of product knowledge.  And rarely does someone working their way through high school or college ever state, “I cannot wait to pass this final exam so I can get out into the marketplace and SELL SOMETHING!”  Often times, a sales career is stumbled upon…as are (unfortunautely) many of the skills necessary to excel.  Most times, it is the blind faith and enthusiasm of the new salesperson that gets them started and carries them through the initial period until they woirk their way into a few opportunities or a few sales, thus justifying or validating their decision.  I like to say that often new sellers are “just dumb enuff to believe they can do it”…so they do it!

Think about it:  When you started your career or your company, did you do so with a clearly laid out plan and a strong confidence that you knew exactly what you needed to do and where this thing was headed?  Or did you follow the “leap and the net will appear” philosophy?  Sometimes a decision needs to be made FIRST before anything of value can be craeted.  I have seen many people of considerable talent that wait and wait, pause and ponder, stall and analyze before they even make a move.  They face the curse of the Perfection Trap!  Sometimes, you just need to dive in!

I am a huge fan of preparation and strategy in business and most things.  In fact, I spent 3 hours (and a small fortune) at the bike shop yesterday asking questions about nutrition, hydration, equipment, and other topics.  I have purchased and read 3 books on cycling in the past two weeks.  And I have joined a team (Team In Training) that has massive coaching and support as well as a very thorough training plan.  All that said, I have to DIVE IN for what will be a 45 mile ride this morning!  Am I scared?  A little, yes.  And that is exactly the motivation that I need to get this program under way and hit this goal.  In then end (and I will keep you updated here on this blog) I am positive that this 100 mile ride through the mountains and around one of the country’s most beautiful lakes will “go down” and I will have a wonderful set of memories and a few awesome pictures.  I am just DUMB ENUFF to believe that and thus I will accomplish that!  But for now…..I gotta go get started.

**Post blog post…Although I am posting this today (Monday) I wrote this blog post yesterday morning (pre-Super Bowl) and accomplished the ride yesterday in a much better time and condition than I (or any of the other riders) expected.  Although I was a sore unit last night (and a bit still this morning), I feel awesome.  And…..I am still just “dumb enuff to believe” that I can make to 100 mile ride around Lake Tahoe!  Have an awesome week!

Don’t Make Every Day YOUR Groundhog’s Day!

Well…what if there wasn’t a tomorrow?  There wasn’t one today!”  Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray)

In the movie 1993 “Groundhog’s Day,” a weatherman, played by  Bill Murray, gets stranded in Gobbler’s Knob (home of the famous groundhog, Punxatawney Phil) and has to re-live the same day over and over and over again.  Every day, he sees the same people, saying and doing the same thing, living the same lives.  For a while, he is confused.  Then, he gets scared and tries to change it—even END it by killing himself and the groundhog!  Eventually, as the movie continues, he learns that the day will continue to be the same unless he changes.  So he increases his awareness of his surroundings, learns from his mistakes of days gone by, starts to adapt, makes adjustments to his behavior, and gets out of the nightmare that his life has become in Gobbler’s Knob!

I think that this movie storyline is an interesting metaphor for BAD salespeople.  Day after day, most of them head into the marketplace re-living their Groundhogs Day.  They knock on the same doors, start conversations the same way, do presentations just like they did yesterday, try the same old tired negotiation tactics and closing lines and all too often, get the same results.  What a life!  Don’t they learn?  Can’t they adapt?  Why don’t they make adjustments?

What about their Sales Managers/Leaders?  Why do they continue to observe the same behavior day in and day out, week in and week out, year after year with no suggestions or coaching to a new approach?   Instead they PUSH you to “do it more,” do it faster,” “do it to MORE people!” STOP IT!  Many times, we need to step back and reassess what it is that we are doing and make proper adjustments.  Salespeople and Sales Managers need to THINK!

  • If that did not work the last 6 times we did it, should we make a change?
  • If that salesperson hasn’t grown his/her business in the last 6 months, should we make a change?
  • If my sales meetings are making no IMPACT on my people, should I make a change?
  • If my prospecting efforts have been getting little to no results, should I make a change?
  • If my conversion rates have dropped over the past 6 months, what do I need to change?
  • If I do the same things this year that I did last year, what can I expect to change?
  • WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
  • What do I need to START doing that I may have never done?
  • What do I need to ACCELERATE (do more of) that I have stalled or slowed down doing?
  • What do I need to KEEP my focus on and never lose sight of?
  • What do I need to STOP doing that is keeping me in this nightmare?

This morning, the groundhog saw his shadow.  This means, apparently, that there will be six more weeks of the same old stuff you have been experiencing for the past several months.  What if that applied to all areas of your life, just as it did in the movie?  What if that extended over the past few years?  What if YOU did not adapt to your surroundings, your environment, and your opportunities?

One thing that differs in this life from the movies; the marketplace offers a new twist every day.  Your competition tries new approaches and desperate moves at every turn.  Prospects and customers are bombarded with new information, more data, and higher output expectations each hour!  Political environments change.  Buying decisions change.  Everything changes and there is very little you can do about most of it unless….you DO something!

The only thing that you can control is how you adapt, how you change, and how you work to get out of your nightmare and get into your dream situation and your dream results daily. So…what do you need to do today to make Punxatawney Phil a liar?  What will you do today to take control and get the hell out of Gobbler’s Knob?

Have an outstanding Groundhog’s Day!