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Looking at my Facebook page these last weeks was like looking at an Ice Bucket Dropping Contest. Almost my entire feed was filled with people who are either dropping or challenging other people to do the same. While the idea of this challenge is absolutely brilliant, there is one thing that is missing and that is accountability.

Over dinner conversations I have discovered that at least four people I know through friends have done the bucket dropping BUT, they have not donated. I hope that I am the ONLY person who knows people who know people who are not that authentic or honest. BUT sadly, I have an inkling there are other people out there who do the challenge, a wonderful way to self-promote on Facebook by the way, and then “forget” to mail the check.

Many of my readers know that I like comparisons, so this scenario reminded me of sales people who love to have nice conversations, but they don’t sell. Activity doesn’t equal results.

Activity Doesn’t Equal Results
There was a really important step that was missed when initiating the ice bucket dropping campaign. That was to make sure people doing the challenge actually did pay the $100 they claim they did. You would at least assume they did, since it’s all about a worthy cause – donating money to ALS research, wouldn’t you? I’m not sure exactly how it could have been done, but with today’s technology there certainly has to be a way.

I do know however how to make sure that your sales people produce. Don’t incentivize activity. Focus on results.

And by incentivize I also mean that sales managers shouldn’t encourage sales people to just make more phone calls. Sales metrics, as my experience has shown me, should be tied to results and to results only.

It really doesn’t matter how many phone calls, e-mails or marketing touches you make – if they are not successful touches!

All that matters is that every action you set will take you a step closer to closing the sale. Activity is important only if it’s streamlined, targeted and measured against clear objectives. A sales person who makes 500 client touches a week and never gets to go on a qualified sales presentation or meeting will most likely never make a sale. Not a successful sales person, right? But lots of activity!

Hold Yourself Accountable – Create More Opportunities
On the other hand, sales people who work smart will know who their ideal prospects are, research more, find out about their prospective contacts and then make well-prepared calls, followed by well-written customized emails, then follow-up calls, etc. And these sales people will open up doors faster.

These are sales professionals who employ consultative selling skills and strategies.

And in the end, it’s all about holding oneself accountable. Not just for management, but also for one’s own sense of purpose and goal-setting.

My friends and friends of friends on Facebook are not held accountable for their ice bucket dropping. Nobody asks them if they actually donated the money. That’s what’s missing in this process.

Holding your salespeople accountable, also means coaching them and sharing your experiences – successes and challenges. When sales managers and leaders collaborate with salespeople to create goals and ways to gauge their success, salespeople will also volunteer more information and share their insights. So, how could that work?

Working SMART
Laying out the steps which actually lead to a sale and holding salespeople accountable for consistently executing those steps has created higher performing and more successful sales teams. For example, having a check list with questions like:
• Has a follow-up meeting been arranged and committed to?
• What do the prospects perceive to be their needs?
• What value proposition can we develop and apply to this prospect?
• Who are the decision-makers? Who is the final decision-maker (=the Economic Buyer)?
• Do we know the decision-making and purchasing process?
• What is planned to happen after the first meeting?
• Are there next steps arranged?
• Do we know more about the prospect than we did prior to the meeting?
• What is their budget cycle?
• Who do they currently work with? How satisfied are they with their current provider? And so on.

These are questions that not only help qualify a prospect further, but are also essential to compiling data for future prospecting. Don’t ask your sales people to just put numbers on a spreadsheet that would equal the ice bucket challenge.

Make sure the numbers show progress in developing business, deepening business relationships. The numbers should show a path to increased revenue and not just increased activity.

And to everybody who is putting a video on Facebook dropping ice on themselves, be a decent person and write a check!

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For convenience reasons I have my business account and my personal account with the same bank. And that’s not due to my deliberate choice. My previous bank was “swallowed up” by this much larger bank during the financial crisis a few years. Not a particularly good start to begin with, although it could have been a great opportunity for my bank on record to make a splash. Well, they didn’t (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog).

Are Sales and Customer Service the Same?
To me, customer service and sales are tightly interconnected. We teach that in our Consultative Sales Certification program. A good number of our clients offer solutions that are often viewed as commodities, such as logistics services, technology solutions, banking. The only differentiator is outstanding customer service, being in touch with your clients and truly understanding and fulfilling their needs. When you don’t serve your customers well, you probably won’t up-sell and in the worst case scenario, you might even lose them. That seems logical, doesn’t it?

The other day I got a call from the business specialist at my bank’s local branch. This is a person that I actually know because I approached him a couple of times with questions about on-line banking. Never, and I mean never has he asked me how happy I was with my experience at the bank or if he could help me with anything else other than tactical advice.

Do You Do Your Research Before You Pick up the Phone?
So, it was to my surprise when my business line rang the other day and that very person, “my” dedicated business advisor, called and wanted to know how I was doing. My first reaction was “That’s nice, they actually care”. That euphoric feeling only lasted a couple of seconds until I realized that he didn’t know who he was talking to. He didn’t connect the dots or didn’t have notes in his CRM system to realize that he had met me on numerous occasions. AND, he had also NOT done his research. A quick look at my LinkedIn page might have triggered his memory – my photo is there. People who have been following my blog know that I write about this all the time. Research, research, research. It’s one of the most important ingredients in successful selling. How are you supposed to add value if you don’t know who you are calling on?

Don’t Call Without a Purpose!
While a bit annoying, it wasn’t the reason why I am writing about this experience. After a very vague introduction to the effect of “Hi, I am your business advisor at your bank”, there was the general question of how my business was doing and whether he could do something for me. When I asked him what he had to offer, it turned out that he had nothing to offer. How could he? He knew NOTHING about my business!

There wasn’t a special promotion, or an offering that would fit my business needs. There was no purpose to the call. One could argue now that it was just a courtesy call, but the fact that he didn’t know who I was in combination with the fact that he knew nothing about my business just bothered me. Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice to check in with your existing customers and just say hello, but only if you actually know them!

Where Can You Find the Best Business Opportunities? … Your Existing Customers!
I am a customer for crying out loud. Look into your database, check my account history, then check my business and offer me something! If you don’t have anything to offer and you don’t know who I am, you are not only NOT adding value to my day, you are actually interrupting it.
Your existing customers are your best source for new business, but there is an art to it. Just calling and saying hello is certainly not the strategy for success.

Without a Purpose, it’s just a Missed Opportunity
We teach the participants in our training programs to prepare for calls, to do research and to have a plan of action. Even the most senior sales or customer service people shouldn’t wing it. It is so rare these days to get people on the phone, so if they actually do pick up – make it worth their time and make it worth your time otherwise it’s just a wasted business opportunity.

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Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Sales Certification, Consultative Sales Certification, Consultative Selling, Sales, Sales Certification

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In sales, should courtesy be tossed out the window?

Recently, I have been following a LinkedIn discussion where the following question was posed?

When calling, should you ask a prospect whether it’s a good time to speak?
Living in a consultative sales world, and teaching the principles of a consultative sales process, to me the answer was simple. Yes. Being mindful is one of the core principles of consultative selling and it should be the core principle when doing business. Where do you stand?

Courtesy Rules
In my opinion, courtesy should never be ignored just to get to results. As a matter of fact, I would argue that the results could be short lived if you just want to get your point across at all costs.
We live in a world where people are looking at different indicators and measures, not only monetary gain and that’s a good thing in my view. Companies are starting to embrace business practices that show that they care. And it has been proven to help the bottom line whether it’s genuine or not.

Is Sales the Exception?
So, why do some people think sales should be the exception? What is the basis of their assumption that in the sales world we can ignore practices that have been proven to work in other business disciplines?
Nobody Wants to be Interrupted (or do you?)

In my many years of calling on C-Level executives, I firmly believe that when you interrupt somebody’s work day, you should always be courteous and professional – first and foremost. Asking your prospect if it’s a good time to speak and giving the person an option will not only leave a good impression, it will lead to a good conversation. If sales people just start off with a generic pitch – and “fast-talking” – they most likely won’t get the attention of the person they are actually trying to connect with. I know for myself that when people call me and start reeling off their pitch, I’m mainly annoyed. For the most part I don’t even listen to what they are saying. My goal is to get them off the phone.

Teach Your People Well, But Not to be Rude
One of the LinkedIn discussion participants even said that he is teaching his people to never ask that question because they then can’t get their point across and it only invites a “No, I don’t have time”. Making that point just leads me to believe this person has no confidence in the people she/he hires to present themselves confidently on the phone.
Of course it depends on the situation and maybe your introduction could start with a simple way of saying, “Hi, I won’t take much of your time. Would you mind listening to my short business introduction if this is a good time for you?” Wording, timing and applying common sense is essential, in life as well as in business. Teaching your salespeople to basically be rude certainly wouldn’t attract me to work for or with a company embracing that sales approach.

Desperation is a Bad Motivator
Salespeople who start off with a pitch in the fear they won’t gain attention can come across as desperate. And that’s one of the reasons why salespeople often have a bad reputation. One person in the LinkedIn discussion said that people should screen their calls and use caller ID to decide if they’ll take the call. Well, many unsolicited calls come in as “Unknown” on my caller ID, so do some calls from Europe. So I am always tempted to answer the phone because I wouldn’t want to miss a call from family or friends in Vienna, Austria, for example. Does that mean I should be punished with rude sales behavior for picking up?

Do Your Research & People will Listen
If you do your research and you know something about the company and the person that you are calling on, you will always be in a better position to open a dialogue. Also, if you introduce yourself via email and then call to follow up, your “cold call” won’t come across as completely out of the blue.

In closing, there are many ways to prospect effectively. I prospect every day on behalf of my clients with huge success. But ignoring courtesy is definitely not part of my recipe.

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Posted in: CEOs, CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Sales Certification, Consultative Selling, Sales

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In recent months I have been observing a quite disturbing trend – a lack of accountability. There are so many reports on the new generation coming into the workplace, the famous Millennials, not being as accountable as other generations, but I deal mostly with Gen X and Baby Boomers and, truthfully, there is really no difference when it comes to being accountable.

So, how can Sales Managers and top Sales Executives contribute to their sales teams being accountable and successful in their organizations?

Sales is a process, especially when it comes to consultative selling and the process only works when you don’t skip steps. Staying in touch with prospects, following up in a timely and mindful manner and following a customer-centric sales process is something that sales managers need to instill in their sales people so they can succeed to their fullest abilities.

But what if the sales managers themselves don’t stick to their process?
What if they don’t stay on track to move things along?
What can they do to hold their teams accountable for moving sales forward?

Lead by Example
It’s hard to expect accountability from your people if you don’t lead by example.

In my work with many companies trying to establish sales processes and programs, I encounter sales managers who don’t stick to their own time-lines far too often.

In our first meeting they usually have a clear picture as to when they want to implement training, who they want to enroll and what the desired outcomes should be, and why they have chosen this approach to support company objectives and goals.

We also ask them to have their team complete our online, proprietary Skills & Knowledge Assessment so everyone will know their current skill level and where their learning gaps are.

Stick to Your Timeline
What sometimes occurs then is a delay in the implementing of that time-line. Not a problem, as long as the reason makes sense for the company, such as restructuring of the team, new team members coming on board, etc.

It seems to be a trend, and when a pattern begins to take shape, I start paying attention.

So, in my mind, the question arises: How can sales managers expect their team to be accountable and productive, if they don’t stick to their own time-line? It’s almost like a parent expecting a child to be courteous while never being polite when interacting with people in front of their children!

Be Accountable

My European background always kicks in when people make promises they then don’t keep. I just simply don’t understand it.
A huge part of my success in sales and business is due to the fact that I always show up on-time, always follow up on what was agreed upon and always follow through on my promises.

And, there is no difference whether I’m dealing with a prospect, a client or a vendor. That’s what accountability looks like – being good for your word.

On a personal note, just pushing the envelope a bit here, in my subjective and slightly biased view, I’ve experienced that it’s usually women who keep their promises.

So, whatever happened to the phrase: “I’m a man of my word”?

Create Stellar Performers
So in closing, Sales Managers – if you want to build a trustworthy, successful team you need to lead by example and stick to the promises you’ve made, otherwise it will be hard to expect stellar performance from your team.

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Readers who have been following my blogs know that I am very cautious when it comes to C-Level involvement and sales, but that only pertains to day-to-day operations and not the conceptual involvement. Your sales process, your sales training or any other sales related areas will not be successful if the CEO feels that it’s not in line with her/his philosophy or thinking.

The most successful sales training programs we have experienced are the ones where the CEO spear-headed, promoted or at the very least approved and supported the program. Sales and sales training cannot be successful if the CEO is not on board.

1) Socialize your CEO with sales

In my experience, most CEOs are strong leaders and are passionate about their company.  That’s also a good reason why they are in the position they are in. Being strong leaders and passionate about what their company can do, many also think they are as good at sales as at leading an organization.  Though they may be quite skilled at promoting their business to investors, understanding Sales as a discipline is a very different cup of tea. We’ve found that the best way to get buy-in on your sales process is to invite your CEO to a meeting where you present the philosophy (consultative selling, customer-centric selling, etc.) and why you have chosen that approach, along with goals and outlines to support company objectives and goals.

2) Be prepared to answer questions

Preparation is everything and you need to be in a position where you can support your strategy (if necessary) with case studies (from previous experiences) or data that you have collected. Just to say that you believe in a consultative approach to selling without knowing why will probably not leave the best impression.

3) Be specific, or not – depending on your CEO’s personality

Graduates of our Consultative Sales Certification Program possess the knowledge and skills to identify personality styles, understand how people digest information and most importantly, how to adjust to most effectively communicate. If your CEO is a strong “D” or Director type, someone very results-oriented, a quick decision-maker, you’ll want to provide top level information, cut to the chase and show how the bottom line will be affected.

If your CEO however is more of a “C” or Cautious and analytical, you need to go into more detail, using data to support your claim as to why you want to do things the way you present them.

4) Build trust

By providing information to your CEO, helping her/him understand the sales process you are a step ahead and more in control. If your CEO has doubts about your sales process, you can talk about it, make adjustments and so you get her/his buy-in. This will help you build trust and allocate budgets and you and your team will share responsibility with your CEO for the outcomes.

5) Be honest

If your sales cycle is lengthy, make sure your CEO fully understands why. Now is your time to be honest and straightforward. It helps you to build rapport, gain trust and to manage expectations. Don’t paint a rosy picture if there are serious obstacles you are facing. If you have built a collaborative environment and your CEO understands the obstacles and the sales process, you will be more successful working towards your goals together.

Oval Callout: I want it, and I want it now!

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Posted in: CEOs, CEOs and Sales, CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Sales Certification

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13 Mar

Do You Speak “Sales”?

by Monika

3 Reasons Why We Need a Common Sales Language

Most of our clients share a common corporate language. And that lingua franca has become “English”. Even if they are an international organization with offices all over the world, English is the way employees communicate with each other, at least officially. This only makes sense, because it streamlines communication and it is the best way to avoid misunderstandings that can happen during translation. But what about a shared “Sales” language? In a consultative sales environment the language we use is key to the success of an organization.

In our work with so many organizations we’ve observed that many companies don’t share a common language when it comes to sales as well as in operations. As you can imagine, this can lead to confusion and sometimes to mismanaged expectations. As a matter of fact, our most successful clients understand that Sales and Operations need a common, shared language. Our clients have successfully used our Consultative Sales Certification Program to work towards that goal.

Too many sales leaders use generic terminology when managing their people. They talk about opportunities, leads, closing rates, probabilities and prospecting but they don’t define those terms.

1) Define Your Terminology

When developing a consultative sales process, the terminology should be defined and agreed upon. What is an opportunity vs. a lead? Do you have clients or customers? What are objections and what are stalls? When we talk about decision makers, let’s be clear who the economic buyers are, who we define as influencers or coaches and what audiences we view as the end users. And do these roles change during the course of working for a client, and how can a sales professional effectively influence the decision-maker to mutual gain?

The list goes on and on, but the important point is that whenever your sales manager leads a sales meeting and makes reference, everybody in the room or on the phone should be clear on what she/he is referring to.

2) Use Parameters to Refine Your Terminology

The best way to manage expectations and develop a shared language is to use parameters to establish a term. Let’s talk about opportunity management. I remember times when I was still an outside sales person and our manager would go around the table, asking each sales person to gauge the probability of closing for each prospect in their pipeline. Personally, I am a very cautious, if not a conservative person (at least in sales) when it comes to predicting probability. I am even a bit superstitious and would never predict 100% unless I had a signature. Some colleagues of mine however were more courageous and daring when it came to their pipeline. For them an 80% closing probability was certain when they had a nice chat with a prospect.

These scenarios happen where there is no common, defined sales language established. For companies to have a firm handle on opportunity management, they need to have a structure in place that will help sales management and sales people to manage their pipeline. That means that you need to set parameters as to what each percentage means. For example, 80 % closing probability could mean that you need to have had all the decision makers involved, a verbal agreement and proposal that was discussed and agreed upon by all engaged parties. The remaining 20% that are still up in the air could be circumstances still unknown, such as Purchasing demanding different payment terms.

3) Be Creative, but Precise

One of my clients wanted to use a sports analogy to manage the pipeline. They referred to First Base, Second Base, etc. when it came to pipeline management. There is nothing wrong with being humorous and playful as long as everybody involved understands what those terms stand for. A North American sales manager working with sales professionals from countries where baseball is not a national sport will have people scratching their heads as to what she/he meant.

Every company has a different system set-up and the sales cycle in general will determine the details but what is crucially important is that everybody internally knows what 50% vs. 80% probability means. There shouldn’t be any confusion about that.

In closing a common, shared sales language is important to avoid miscommunication and confusion. One way to ensure that your language is streamlined is to reflect the parameters in your CRM system. Customize your database so it reflects your “Sales” language and your “Sales” parameters and make sure that only those terms are used during official meetings. You see, whenever terminology is not clearly defined there is room for faulty interpretation/translation. Have a look at the following!

Here are some examples of marketing language “lost in translation.”

  • KFC, for example, mis-translated “finger-lickin’ good” into Chinese that meant something more cannibalistic.
  • Or, the U.S. Original: “Got Milk” was definitely a wildly off translation in Mexico with: “Are You Lactating?”

 

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http://www.thewoodshop.20m.com/graphics/clockface2.jpgThe phrase “We don’t have time for …” is very often used to stall and/or avoid responsibility or just as an excuse to do nothing. There really is never a lack of time. Rather, it’s really a matter of setting priorities. If you feel that you don’t have time to do something important, I invite to re-consider.

Are you trying to avoid doing something, or do you feel that the task is not important enough to make it on top of your priority list? This is a really important exercise. In business and in life.

Everyone I know suffers from time deficiency. Our busy schedules, cluttered with appointments and obligations and getting inundated with information through voice mails, emails, social media alerts, Twitter feeds, Instagram, you name it – we’re in overload!

Today, for example I decided to clean out my Inbox and unsubscribe from many mailings. Not because the information was useless, but it wasn’t of value to me personally and professionally any longer. Freeing up my time and clearing my schedule gives me an opportunity to add things that matter to me personally or to my professional education.

But, let’s get back to the phrase of “We don’t have time for sales training” – this is something we occasionally hear from our prospects when we discuss our Strategic Consultative Sales Certification Training Program.

Business Development Is A Priority, Is It Not?

I am a deep believer that Business Development should be a top priority for every single organization. Without it, your company won’t grow. But even more importantly for me, is that it should be mindful business development – not just making numbers. Your company should have a growth plan and a goal to gain more profitable customers. I’ve experienced more companies than I’d like to just adding numbers to their revenue stream without looking hard at profitability.

No Sales Training = Status Quo, or does it?

Our clients are always amazed at how even their top producing business development people develop new and updated insights and get great value from our Training Programs. There is always room for improvement and if we don’t learn, we stagnate, or even worse we regress. Sales is process and it’s hard. We are in the trenches every single day trying to achieve our sales goals. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern without looking up and looking around for new techniques and refining one’s skills. Decidedly, an on-going sales training program gives you an opportunity to regroup, to challenge your thinking, adjust your behavior and develop new skills.

Why is it Always the Top Performing Companies Who Get It?

Interestingly enough, most of our clients are the ones who are already successful. They don’t really have a problem with business development, but they do want to do better. They continuously seek out solutions that can help them to be more strategic and to grow revenue in a more effective way. They also know that by helping their business development staff be more effective, it will lead to a win-win situation. Their people will earn more and it will lead to more revenue and higher profit margins.

Still No Time for Training? Think Again.

What people don’t realize is that not doing anything doesn’t necessarily mean that everything stays the same. It means that you are not progressing but your competition might very well be. While your sales people are doing things the way they were done 5, 10, sometimes 15 years ago, the competition is learning to plan strategically, to overcome objections with real value solutions and to close business with clients who fit in with their strategic objectives. Sales and business development has changed in many ways in the last 5 years due to all the social media channels. If your sales people are not kept fresh and up to speed, they will be left behind. Nobody would think that using fax machines to get new business is a State of the Art practice, would they?

What is Your Business Growth Worth to You?

My health and sanity is worth 6 hours a month to me. That’s the time that I take away from my busy schedule to practice Yoga. It keeps me grounded and it keeps me sane.

My business growth is worth 20 hours a week, that’s the amount of time I spend on prospecting, writing articles such as this one and learning about new best practices.

Our clients have their sales and account management people spend 4-5 hours a month on learning to become more strategic business development people embracing and utilizing a consultative approach. When they graduate from our program (which usually takes 6-8 months, remember – sales is a process and so is learning) they have grown their business by over 30% on average. A small time investment if you think about it in terms of ROI.

So, really, it’s all about priorities. Business Development needs to be a priority, whether it comes to cold calling (schedule time every day), or staying in touch with your customers (plan to do that on a regular schedule) or learning new practices.

Not having time means that growing your company is not a priority. And that’s surely not what you are aiming for, is it?

“Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts.”
- Coleman Cox

As you know, we deeply believe that our Consultative Sales Certification Program provides so many benefits and value to a sales organization. Interestingly enough we share this conviction with a Sales Consultant whose blog you can read here.

Three Ways to Increase Sales Training Adoption: Tom Maloney

http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com/bid/104882/Three-Ways-to-Increase-Sales-Training-Adoption

 

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Happy 2014! Let’s make it count. I hope that you had a relaxing holiday season and you’re off to a great start.

Last December we had a prospect meeting and the discussion was about shifting from a commodity sale to becoming more value oriented. It’s a really important shift in today’s business environment where the consumers/customers are more informed than ever and almost everything can be researched online.

Are you selling “Stuff” or Value?

How to Shift from Commodity Sales to Value Selling

Many of our clients face the challenge of being in a market where their product or service is considered a commodity. The challenge there is that it is usually a price driven discussion and sales people are trained to commoditize their sales approach rather than selling value.

Focus on Value Rather than Features

When a company offers a product that is viewed as a commodity, very often sales people feel they need to focus on the features of their service or product only to find out that their prices are undercut by the competition. Somebody, somewhere can always do something similar cheaper. But think about yourself:  Most people generally don’t buy features. They buy what they feel gives them the most value for a specific solution. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Is It the Way Coffee Tastes, or the Way You Feel When You Drink It?

I would consider coffee a commodity. And of course it is when you buy coffee bean futures, but I am talking about buying a cup of coffee and enjoying it. Starbucks, before they broke into the American market figured out that Europeans enjoy their coffee experience. It wasn’t only about the quality of the coffee (although also very important), but everything around it. The smell, when you walk into a Cafe, the way your waiter/barista remembers how you like it, the fact that you can sit and enjoy while you are sipping it.

All of a sudden, America went from percolators (so 1950’s!) to signature drinks where it sometimes takes as long to order a coffee (tall, skinny, dry Hazelnut Cappuccino?!) than a meal in a restaurant. What happened? Starbucks changed the way Americans look at drinking coffee. It’s no longer about a brown drink, it’s about relaxing, gathering, enjoying- the VALUE of the entire experience.

This approach can be used for every sales process, even when the process has traditionally been viewed as a commodity sale. And your customers will change the way they think about your product/service.

It’s Not About the Features of Your Product, but the Value

One of our clients sells very high-performance tooling equipment. Their products are more expensive than those offered by the competition but the quality of their tools is unmatched. We’re helping their sales people focus on the peace of mind they are selling, the long-term savings in labor and replacement costs, as well as higher production rather than the product features. Their sales people now focus on the value rather than the product features. Quality products don’t break as often, they are reliable and long lasting. When you buy and use them, you don’t have to think about getting a new one for a really long time, sometimes for a lifetime.

If your sales people focus on that peace of mind, on long-term savings, talk about the quality and the reliability, then discussions on price will become secondary. Once you lead with features, your prospects will start comparing and then price is the top of mind discussion.

Freight is Freight, or Is It?

One could argue that freight is freight and market research is market research. Yes, of course it is, but once you launch this tactical approach, talking about the speed of your freight delivery or the accuracy of your market research results, what do you think will happen? People will start comparing your offering with that of the competition and they will start price shopping.

If your sales people however focus on the fact that your freight will be in good hands, that once you hand off a project, you don’t have to think about it anymore and all the details will be taken care of, then you are selling peace of mind. The same holds true in the market research/agency world. People are not looking for numbers, as they assume that they are accurate. They are looking for ways to use those numbers to understand their customers better, or to grow their market share.

It’s About a Mindset Shift

I, for example don’t sell consultative sales training, I sell the way our participants feel about business development. Our graduates look at business development in a completely different way. They learn the skills and concepts to genuinely understand their customer’s needs, gaining more confidence which in turn results in more profitable accounts. We provide our clients with a training program that keeps their employees accountable. They no longer feel that they are sales people trying to get business, but they know that they are consultants who help their prospects be more successful. They add value and when adding value sales professionals are more comfortable asking for business.

Be Proud of Your Price Tag

There is nothing wrong with being more expensive, as long as you have sales people who understand the real value that their customers and prospects are looking for and can communicate it. Own your price tag. As a matter of fact, when I sold services that were more expensive than the competition, I would proudly say. “Yes, we are more expensive, and here is why”.

And once again, I wish everyone a great 2014 and GOOD SELLING!

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It’s the time of the year again. The holiday season is upon us and it seems that we are stressing out and just trying to get it over with? A good number of people I know don’t really enjoy preparing for the holidays as much as our TV commercials make us believe we do. All those happy ads with kids smiling, parents gladly shopping, and everybody being together and laughing. Not exactly the vibe I am getting when I am out shopping. People seem more stressed, or at least more impatient than the rest of the year. So, my question is – what are we chasing?

Happiness? Well, that’s probably not going to arrive in a box.

The same holds true for business success. We are always chasing the numbers, increased revenue and KPI’s. What if our measure would include human aspects. After all, every company is only as good as their customers and adding the human touch can only increase brand equity. We could go back to the basics of human interaction when doing business and maybe money will follow us. What if our KPI’s would include the following?

1) Gratitude

I deeply believe that being grateful is essential in my personal and my professional life. Without gratitude, it seems to me, some people feel they don’t have enough – keep looking for things rather than appreciating what we have. Ask yourself how many times you actually paid gratitude to your clients and employees. I am always grateful for my clients because they provide me with invigorating and challenging work and my financial health. Why not show our gratitude by sending a little something that is meaningful (and if we are following a consultative sales approach we know a little bit about our clients, right?). It’s the little acts of kindness that really go a long way.

Being a good human being IS good business! – Paul Hawken

2) Paying attention

I’ve observed of late that there is a tendency for people to easily become more superficial than we’d like to be. Perhaps it’s a side effect of technology overwhelm and fast moving times. We all have so much on our plates that we often feel that we are on a treadmill in our current world of instant gratification. How many times do actually listen to your clients by honestly paying attention? Try it, it’s magical. Instead of thinking of other things, start to listen more often and you will discover many areas of opportunities.

3) Authenticity

Focusing on what’s really important also means being authentic. Being authentic means that we have strong beliefs and whatever it is that we do or decide, whether it’s on a personal or professional level it will come from a place of truth. For example, one of my former clients refused to work with tobacco companies, regardless of the money they wanted to pay him. He was authentic in his business approach and while he missed out on all the tobacco related business, his other clients respected him for his strong beliefs. You can actually increase revenue while being authentic. Put your stake in the ground! Develop your own yardstick!

4) Respect

The less respectful we are, the higher the probability that we will lose clients. Being respectful is an essential KPI when it comes to doing business. And there are many ways to show it. How often have you not returned a phone call? How many times have you been ill prepared for a meeting? We have all done it, but by paying attention to our behavior and being aware of it, we can all increase our level of respect when we interact with people, whether it’s employees, clients, the receptionist or the janitor.

5) Humility

There is nothing wrong with being humble and acknowledging that we are human. Which is the most vulnerable trait of humans? We make mistakes. All of us – bar none. Admitting mistakes, being vulnerable and maybe even having a sense of humor about it makes us more attractive, not less. It’s a simple formula. Humility = Success

6) Reliability

Part of my success is in showing up and showing up on time. It sounds very simple and it really is when you are a professional. My motto is to under-promise and over-deliver. The more times we are on-time, prepared and deliver what we promise, the higher our chances of winning or keeping a client.

7) Honesty

Last, but not least, let’s talk about honesty. For some reason there are some sales practitioners (and their management) who feel that it is all right to be a bit dishonest in sales. It happens in other business areas, too but it’s more accepted in sales. There are companies that wholeheartedly encourage their sales people to tell some white lies in order to get business. I deeply feel that’s just plain wrong. Not only does it reflect badly on you as a person, it leaves a horrible impression of your company. I think you would agree that every successful relationship needs to be based on honesty and every single time we are being honest, we are doing the right thing. And, when we do the right thing we are better business people.

So, going forward, why not build the “7 Ways of Measuring your Success” into your KPIs and you will see that not only will business thrive but you and your clients will feel better and your company will be more highly respected.

Going back to the basics and measuring our success by how your clients and customers feel after interacting with your company could add new dimension to KPI’s. It’s worth a try!

Happy holidays and hopes for a 2014 in which we and our clients are happier than we were in 2013!

Happy Holidays, Happy Selling and Wishing You a Successful, Healthy 2014.

Warm wishes,

Monika

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Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Selling, Sales

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During a prospecting call the other week we came across the question on HOW we help our clients shorten the sales cycle. It’s something that is an integral part of our Consultative Sales Certification Training Program – helping our clients to shorten the cycle by up to 25%. A valid question, right? So I decided I would share our response with the sales community.

Many sales people are under the impression that the surest ways to shorten the sales cycle is to either increase activity and/or to follow-up more aggressively.

Strategically shortening your sales cycle has nothing to do with making more phone calls but everything to do with understanding your audiences and their situation.

In a nutshell, here is the response that we offered our prospect:

Understand Your Audiences

First things first! You need to understand who your contacts are and their roles in the decision making process. There are the financial (=economic) buyers, users, technical influencers, coach influencers, etc. And you need to understand the logic they use in making decisions and the motivation of each.

For example, a CFO might look for cost savings and want the bottom-line improvements while a user of a service or a product will want to hear about what’s in it for them –  how your solution will help them in their daily job. Some influencers can act as your coach, helping you understand the structure of the organization and the buying process and the preferences of other buyers.  All of these people will have different roles and responsibilities and also different personalities. Understanding who you are dealing with and catering to those people’s needs is essential in shortening the sales cycle. Very often sales people focus only on a limited number of “influencers”, they move the sale along to only find out that there is no budget for what they are offering.

Gain Commitments Along The Way

Managing expectations and strategically gaining commitments at every step of the way is another essential factor in shortening the sales cycle. If you ask your prospects at every step of the process if what you are offering is in line with their expectations, you will stay on course and there will be no big surprises in the end. Too often sales people are looking for an easy “yes” rather than being honest with themselves and asking the tough questions. This can surely lead to frustration and confusion. Sometimes it’s best to realize that your offering might not be best suited for a particular prospect and that it’s time to move on. On the positive side this means that you then have more time to focus on the prospects that actually are a good fit. It also means that your clients will be more profitable and they will certainly be happier as well.

Speak Your Customer’s Language

Not everybody speaks the same language. Yes, in the business world we mostly speak English but that doesn’t mean that we process information the same way. Some people like to hear things while others want to read material. Some of us prefer in-person meetings, others would rather be on the phone, or prefer to mostly use email. Email is a good communications tool, for some the best, but not everybody is comfortable communicating that way. Understanding what communication style your prospect prefers and how they best digest information is essential when it comes to shortening your sales cycle.

Be of Value to Your Prospect/Customer

Remember, it’s not about you or your service/product – it’s all about them.  People respond to offerings that are relevant to them and can realistically help them move their business forward. If you don’t have something of value to say or offer, don’t even engage. That doesn’t mean that you should never call or reach out to your prospect or existing client, but it does mean that you should be prepared and have something of interest to say. Maybe you came across an industry article that you could share, or you have a special promotion. But don’t just engage for the sake of activity. It not only bogs you down, it is without value to your prospect or customer and it actually a waste of their time.

In closing, what is really important in shortening the sales cycle is moving from an activity driven model to a strategic approach where you plan and execute each step in your customer’s best interest.

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Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Selling, Sales, Sales Effectiveness

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