Get sales certified!

Jason Weske

Jason Weske, Manager at Cradlepoint showcases some of the findings of a management workshop that we hosted.

Sales Training Best Practices Successful Managers Follow

In working with hundreds of successful Sales Managers, we have seen and documented their understanding of sales and sales training being a process, not an event and the most successful sales managers support their team members on that journey by providing on-going sales coaching.

Training Managers is a Process too!

There are the unfortunate times when some sales managers get excited about a sales training event – a talk, a one-day workshop or even a three-day event, hoping that it will be the magic bullet to help their sales people meet their goals. Those are the sales managers hoping that after the event everything will magically turn black on the balance sheet.

While training is truly essential and valuable to an organization’s growth, it will only be effective if the sales managers support the long-term learning process and if they themselves are trained accordingly.

Recent studies have shown that it is essential to train sales managers to ensure top performance of a sales team. When sales managers don’t embrace disciplines, how would they be able to coach and guide their teams?

Try This on for Size – Don’t Coach to Quota!

A widespread misconception about sales coaching is that managers should coach their team to meet quota. While the goal should be to reach (or in the best-case scenario exceed quota) the only way for that to sustainably occur is not to coach to a number, but to continually assess, re-assess, develop and expand best practices in sales team members’ sales skills, strategies and sales behaviors.

Honestly, think about it– the sales professionals you really want on your team know when they are behind their goals. They don’t need to be reminded all the time.

Here’s an example: if a salesperson is struggling to overcome difficult or unusual objections, she/he won’t be able to learn how to improve by hearing that they missed their quarterly goals. Become better at overcoming objections, recognizing buying signs, and we’re headed in the direction of hitting that golden number, right?

And speaking of quarter-end, which seems to be a “Reach-Your-Quota-Frenzy” in many companies: let’s see if we can change that. A radical idea, no?

Make deliberate and planned sales training and coaching on-going. Focus on skills development, positive sales behaviors, as well as on pipeline and account development to achieve overall improvement from the VERY FIRST DAY OF THE QUARTER!

There will be little need for intense sales rallies the last week of each quarter. And honestly, we see that a “Quarter-End- Frenzy” disturbs the overall sales process and the delivering of top-notch, meaningful engagement.

Some sales people become frantic and that leaves a bad impression with the prospects. Sales people can come across as desperate. Desperation is a bad sales agent.

Understand YOUR Strengths & Opportunities for Growth

Every sales person has unique strengths and opportunities for growth. The same holds true for managers.

Before we even start working with a client, we assess the skill sets of the sales team and their sales management. It’s hard to know what to focus on when there is no benchmark. It’s also impossible to gauge success without knowing where we started and where improvement is taking place.

To achieve our goal of understanding sales managers’ existing skills and knowledge, we invite our clients to complete the CSCC SALES MANAGEMENT & COACHING-IQTM Skills & Knowledge Assessment. If you want to find out your Sales Management IQ, follow the link below.

Sales Management IQ

This assessment is composed of wide range of scenario questions from over 20 years of on-going research and extensive competency and sales behavior modeling, having assessed key performance indicators and best practices of hundreds of top performing sales managers across a variety of industries.

Once a benchmark is established, it is easier to pinpoint gaps, identify strengths and areas of improvement and get insights into how to improve performance.

The overarching goal is to create a collaborative framework where sales people can succeed and sales managers provide the support necessary to achieve that success. This can only happen when sales managers understand the process, coach their team members individually, and as a group, and follow through with on-going guidance and strategic support.

In wrapping, to become a highly successful organization it is key to create a culture of on-going training and coaching for sales team members and for sales managers, front-line as well as higher level management. This will ensure that your organization will continue to evolve and grow, adapting to the changing needs of clients/prospects.

Once your company’s goals and vision become transparent and tangible for your team, and is not just a set of numbers, it’s much easier to have honest conversations on how sales managers can best coach their team members towards overall behavioral improvement, not solely toward a number even if that number is significant.

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

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When you ask a sales person, their sales manager, or the CEO of an organization how long their sales cycle is, you usually get mixed responses. In some cases, you get blank stares, in other scenarios there is disagreement on the length of the actual cycle.

CEOs in general would like to see sales moving along at a healthy clip, while sales people and managers often underestimate the time it really takes to close a sale.

You can only change what you know

Everybody wants to shorten their sales cycle, but in order to do that you need to first understand the length and the drivers. What do I mean by that?

There are reasons why some sales cycles are longer than others. Some of the areas are out of your control, others can be influenced.

For example, if you target larger organizations with various decision-makers and influencers, your sales cycle will automatically be longer. Sales cycles may be shorter when targeting smaller organizations, but you need to be aware of the payoffs and the trade-offs.

In other words, do those small organizations have budgets available? Are they even a good fit for your offering?

How can you control the sales cycle?

One way to control the length of your sales cycle is to be sure that sales team members have all received targeted training. First, sales professionals should know what to look for in their ideal client profile, what industries to target, what messaging works or doesn’t, etc. Then, they need to be trained to ask the right questions to not only uncover needs and goals of their prospects, but just as importantly, what to ask to move the sale along.

Following are some questions to ask yourself to focus on drivers which can influence your sales cycle.

1) How well known is your company/brand?

If your company is well known and you are only introducing a new service or product, it will be easier to get results. However, if your company is not established in the market place, it will take longer to get traction.

2) Do you know who the decision maker for the offering will be?

If you don’t know who your decision-maker(s) will be, it will take longer to navigate through your prospect organization. Identifying the “influencers” within an organization is key to being successful. Too many sales people have lengthy conversations with people who are not in a position to buy or even influence the final decision-maker(s). So, asking the right questions upfront, making sure that you are talking to the right people, and establishing rapport with the real influencers will help you shorten the cycle.

3) Do you have a Unique Positioning for your service?

If you don’t know how to differentiate your service from others in the marketplace, it will also add time to your sales cycle. It is therefore of high importance to have a Unique Selling Proposition and to craft messaging that will get people’s attention.

4) Are you adding Value?

Too many sales people focus on the features and benefits of their offering, rather than leading with value. It is important for a prospect to understand how your service/product offering will be of value to them (and remember, it’s different depending on the role of the person).

5) What is the buying cycle of your prospects?

One area that is out of your control is the buying cycle and budget cycle of your prospects. Identify and understand their budget cycle and then manage your outreach accordingly.

6) Are your sales people equipped to sell in a consultative environment?

If they are not, they will not ask the right questions, get stuck with the wrong decision maker and that will have a strong impact on your sales cycle. We have a Sales IQ assessment that helps management determine whether sales people are up to par, or not.

Here are some ideas for Sales Professionals & Sales Managers

All of these areas need to be carefully reviewed and discussed, but not only by sales professionals themselves. If your CEO is involved in these discussions, you will not only have buy-in from the top, but also a profound understanding as to why things might take longer. No sensible CEO will breathe down your neck if you can make a case as to why this process is not yielding immediate results. Keep your CEO engaged and informed and she/he will support your efforts.

If, however, you keep your CEO in the dark and un-informed on how you’ve established the process, she/he will rightfully be impatient.

When you are in a sales management position, invite your CEO to the last part or day of a sales meeting and present a clear and concise plan of action.

When you are a sales person, encourage your manager to provide metrics and results to your CEO.

Recommendations for CEOs

If you are a CEO, ask to be invited to the sales meetings, add your insights and then let your team work their “magic”. Resist the temptation to get involved on a daily basis

You’ll be happier and your team will be more successful for it!

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Posted in: CEOs, CEOs and Sales, CONSULTATIVE SALES, Sales, Sales IQ

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False Evidence Appearing Real – An Alternative View of Fear

Fear in Sales is very common. It’s fair to observe that fear is often present on both the buyer and the seller side. Buyers, not only in business, may be afraid to make a wrong decision. And sellers often fear rejection or losing a sale. A successful way of overcoming fear is to identify when we become aware of that fear rising, either in ourselves or in closely listening to our customers, and then to work toward a solution.

Step 1: Acknowledge It!

You Cannot Change What You Don’t Acknowledge

In my many years of coaching and helping sales people be more effective, I have seen  many people struggling with fear and it can be paralyzing. Sales is very personal, we need to understand that. We are only as good as our numbers and rejection can feel very personal. So, it’s OK to embrace that fear. AND it’s vital to understand the fears buyers might bring to the table.

Step 2: Have a Plan!

Being prepared is half of the battle. I always compare becoming comfortable and successful in a consultative sales environment to learning to drive a car with a stick shift transmission. As long as you are focusing on shifting the gears and releasing the clutch properly, you will not be in full command of your vehicle. AND you won’t be able to focus on traffic the way you should. You need to get to a point where shifting becomes second nature.

The same holds true for becoming comfortable and successful in applying a consultative sales process.

For example, when prospecting, you need to be comfortable when picking up the phone, easing into your conversations, being prepared to ASK the RIGHT QUESTIONS, listening for ways to position the VALUE of your solutions, gaining commitments for next steps if there is a good fit. Or if there isn’t a good fit, to be able to end a conversation on a positive note, building bridges for the future.

Being able to confidentially and naturally do this on a regular basis is then only possible when it is second nature to you so you can focus on your prospect and not allow fear to derail you.

Step 3: Practice makes Permanent (and even perhaps Perfect)

It really does, in every area of our life. I, for example have no fear of cold calling whatsoever. Not sure why, but I almost get an adrenalin high when chasing C-Level prospects and breaking through to them. For some reason the universe has given me that unique gift and I embrace it and tapped into it to start a business.

Flying on the other hand was something that caused me sleepless nights, shaking, sweats and all the other unpleasant things that happen when you are afraid of something. Air travel, despite all the accidents, terrorist attacks, etc. is still immensely safer than getting into a car. But I certainly don’t tremble when driving toward New York City on I-95. Even though the statistics are telling me another story.

Once I recognized this fear as being a constant companion, I started to choose air travel over ground travel every single time I had a choice, just to make it more routine. Unless there is a deeper psychological issue simmering, the more often you do something, the easier it will be.

Still to this day I don’t like turbulences (neither do I like potholes on the highway), but these days I board an airplane with the same ease as getting into my car.

Step 4: Research, Prepare, Practice, Do It & Repeat!

The better prepared you are and the more you prepare, the more comfortable you will be in any sales situation, it puts you in the driver’s seat. Write out the questions you want to ask and make sure you start with a Who, What, When, Where or How so the answers will not be a simple “yes” or “no”.

Then pick up the phone!  Yep! You gotta pick up the phone and dial!

If cold calling sends tremors down your spine, there is nothing like jumping into the pool and starting to swim. Take a deep breath after every prospect/client interaction, reflect on what you heard, what you said, what you can do better next time – and then – DO IT AGAIN! AND AGAIN! AND SO ON! That’s a big step in overcoming your fears.

Step 5: Celebrate Your Success

And Reward Yourself for Every No

Entrepreneurs and sales people don’t celebrate their successes enough. We are easy to point out bad experiences, but hardly every take the time to acknowledge what we have accomplished. It’s truly important.

Take the time to reflect and celebrate AND reward yourself for every No you get. Whether your prospect will agree to a conversation or not, you have worked hard to get somebody on the phone.

And whether they are interested or not, is not something you can always control. It’s common in sales to get rejected and the more often you experience it, the easier it will become.

Here’s an example from a chocolate-loving salesperson we know: “If you like chocolate, put Hershey kisses on your desk and grab one every single time your prospect says, “No thanks”. Because NO is the second-best answer you can get!”

Train to Overcome Fears & Become A SuperSellerTM

Test your Sales IQ!

There are many great tools out there to test your sales acumen. Consultative Sales Academy, in partnership with Impact Sales Training-dvr Learning, offers our Consultative Sales Certification Sales IQ-Skills & Knowledge Assessment.

This in-depth Assessment is a quick and thorough method to measure your sales skills and knowledge, or those of your team members. It is not a psychometric exam or aptitude test, it consists of 80 scenario questions to shine a light on strengths and growth opportunities. Once you know what your strengths are and where you can improve, you can focus on those areas.

In our case, we offer our corresponding Consultative Sales Certification Training Program, a blended Live and web-based e-Learning system to help you and your team members become stronger in the areas in which you will benefit from improvement.

Our enrolled training and coaching participants not only learn and practice via our CSC Program, but also apply their newly-won skills and strategies in the field and report back to their teams and our trainers in Best Practices Sessions. In over 20 years of research and application, we have observed learners are most successful when they focus on one core competency at a time and repeat and apply skills and concepts in real life as often as possible, until it becomes their new “second nature”.

So, take a tour of our Consultative Sales Certification Training Program here and please call or email with any thoughts or inquiries. We’d love to see you “Sell More, Sell Faster & Earn More, too!”

 

 

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Posted in: Lead Generation, Mindset & Sales, Prospecting

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27 Jan

Communicating Effectively

by Monika

When thinking about 2017, I try to reflect on 2016 to see where I might have missed a step and what areas are ripe for improvement.

Here’s one of my thoughts. It’s always a challenge to employ effective communications. Anyone who has taken an interest and listened in to this past year’s election cycle would probably agree that effective communication is the key to winning people over. I didn’t say great communication. I intentionally used the term effective, because in the end that’s all that matters.

How Are Your Messages Reaching Your Targeted Audiences?

When Americans feel angry, for whatever reason, a message that resonates and speaks to that anger will get more attention than political concepts. I am not trying to make a political point here, but what I learned last year watching, Brexit and the American election is that no matter how competent or incompetent you are and how reasonable or unreasonable your arguments might be, they will not resonate if you are out of touch with your audience.

And in this spirit, I wanted to pivot to the sales world, and, right, you guessed it, talk about truly understanding and adjusting to your prospects and their needs. I have experienced so many sales people not really listening to and understanding their audiences and not communicating effectively. And therefore, they are far too often ineffective in the way they communicate with their prospects. It’s not what we say, it’s whether we can gain a prospect’s attention and they hear us, that matters.

When it comes to sales, it’s of ultimate importance to fully understand our prospect, so we can effectively communicate with her/him. Not everybody communicates in the same way. While some people want to get to the point quickly, others will be solely price driven, other people will want to purchase a product or service which greatly improves what they now have or use and price will not be that much of an issue. And still others are driven by proven reliability and are cost conservative.

Understanding those differences is crucial to success in sales.

Step 1: Listen to Your Customers

One of the differentiators we need to be aware of is to understand why people make decisions the way they do. We know that human behavior revolves around the need to gain pleasure or avoid pain. Some people are oriented to one more than another. And, unlike other psychologies this will vary based on the decision that they are making.  We need to listen to what our customers tell us about past purchase decisions and what triggered their decision to go with one product or service over another.

So, What Motivates Your Prospects?

How often have you heard others say, “Oh, that buyer is super loyal to their vendor – they’ll never use anyone else”? Probably more often than what researchers have established. Only about 6% of all buyers are truly brand loyal and most likely won’t ever switch suppliers.

And then, there are those who are ALWAYS on the move, always the first adaptors. Another surprise, – only about 7% of the buying population fall into this category.

So, – What percentage of buyers are willing (to varying degrees) to make a change? About 86/87% – that’s a lot of buyers willing to listen IF (and that could be a very big IF) what you are saying is relevant and resonates with them.

Listen and ask questions to deep-dig about their needs, their challenges, how they envision improving their business. Some will say what they want in a forward-thinking manner. Others might share with you what they don’t want or what didn’t work in the past.

Don’t forget to listen to the questions they are asking, and how they are asking. Clues are everywhere to help you position your solutions to meet their needs and their way of thinking.

Why Do People Make Decisions the Way They Do?

A large group of buyers (about 42%) are comfortable with their current providers but are open to a possible change if it truly means efficiencies, or your product/service helps them save time or money, or provides peace of mind/security.

Then there is another large group (about 45%) who are very open to change and like to try out new services and product. Make note of their preference and be sure to present changes in your services or products to them first. You can avoid losing them to another provider.

So, How Do You Change Your Strategy?

Simply put, analyze their approach and then position your solution to match the strategy the customer uses (usually subconsciously) to make buying decisions. In sales, we should employ some psychology to be even more successful. For example, if a buyer tells you what they don’t want or what didn’t work, offer them a solution that removes that risk of failure. Stress reliability and offer examples or testimonials.

In our Consultative Sales Certification Program (CSC), we help sales and service professionals understand buyers’ behavior, their communication preferences and how to gain the commitments and buy-ins which will lead to success by understanding, among many other elements, the psychology behind purchasing decisions.

In essence, coming full circle – one message might be effective for one person and could totally miss the mark for another one.

Sales is a complex process because we humans are complex beings. And as I have shared with you many time, in the end, People buy from People!

 

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jingle

 

In sales, it’s all about building relationship so we can gain the trust of our prospects, help them with relevant value solutions, close business and make more money.

In the end, it’s all about the bottom line. So, every activity that we engage in should result in bringing us closer to that goal.

Whether it’s planning, researching or the way we engage with our prospects, every single interaction should lead us to the next step. Now, ask yourself the question, does every step you take get you closer to the sale?

 

  • Time is Money

We hear that phrase all the time, but in sales it’s an essential thought to keep in mind. It’s really not about activity, it’s all about results. One of the reasons I love this profession is that it always provided me with a certain amount of freedom. So, how does that stack up with your experience?

 

You see, from my own experience, it’s not about how many hours you work, it’s all about how much quality business you are closing.

We Sales Professionals are, finally, only as valuable as our results. So, how does that stack up with your experience?

So, before this year comes to an end let me provide you with some tips on how to maximize your time.

 

  • Planning is Everything

This part is where many sales people go off the rails. They start reaching out before they know their prospects’ universe. That’s when they start wasting time and not getting the results they are looking for.

Speaking of universe – sales people should know who to target. I am not talking territory here, I am talking about developing a prospect base that will buy from you. Territories are usually assigned to us, but within those territories we can develop a system to at first identify the low hanging fruit.

For example, if you are assigned Retail as a sector, you want to understand that industry and who within your prospect base would be a potential client. The trick is to identify parameters that will help you define those drivers. They could be revenue, or geography, but they could also touch on other areas.

For my business model, revenue and geography don’t matter. What matters is 1) how many sales people an organization has and, 2) whether management embraces a consultative sales approach.

 

So, ask yourself this question: “What are the areas that define a good prospect for you?”

 

  • Research is KEY

Another area where sales people don’t spend enough time is doing their research. There is an abundance of information available through on-line resources, and don’t forget “old-fashioned” methods such as word of mouth, referrals, etc.

It is crucially important to spend as much time on research as on the actual outreach. With people being inundated with information, coming from a place of expertise makes all the difference.

When a sales person calls me and they don’t even know my business, have never visited my site and don’t really understand my challenges, I don’t engage with them.  And that holds true whether it’s a phone or email outreach.

I can tell just from glancing at an email if a sales person is reaching out to me personally, or if they are simply working off a list.

 

  • People Buy from People

There is value in content marketing and automated solutions, as long as they are relevant to your target group. In the end, PEOPLE buy from PEOPLE. In order to effectively engage with prospects, you need to build rapport and trust. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, be personal, find out something interesting about your prospects, engage in a way that mirrors their behavior, make them comfortable with you and, most importantly, be relevant. The danger with automation is that it is just that. Automated. One way to be different in this ever-changing business world is go to back to the basics and engage people in a meaningful way.

 

  • Sales is a Process

I have said it here in my blogs before, and I’ll say it again. Sales is a PROCESS.

Every sales person needs to have a system in place that works for them. Utilizing their CRM, managing their time and developing a unique message that will resonate with their audiences.

Most sales people don’t really know how to communicate what the unique value their product/service brings to a prospect.

They just rattle off a pitch, talking about the features and benefits of their offering.

In a nutshell, when you know who your audiences are, what your unique message is and how to mindfully and effectively engage your prospects, you will succeed.

 

It’s the holidays and I believe in paying forward, so I want to share our Consultative Sales Certification Program (CSC) TM Account Planning tool with you.

 

And here’s to you and to a Happy, Healthy and Successful 2017!

Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Prospecting, Sales, Uncategorized

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14 Nov

Who is Your Audience?

by Monika

Understanding who your audience is will shorten your sales cycle and make you more effective. It will also help you maximize your time and be more relevant to the people you engage.

The other day I got a connection request from LinkedIn. The person’s profile was very scarce, because the young lady had just started out in sales and the reason I accepted her request was simple.

“I am on a mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners”

so what better opportunity than being connected with a person who is starting this difficult career.

A couple of days after I connected with her she sent me a request through LinkedIn offering her service (what else is new?). The email contained the following phrase:

My guess is before you retire you’ll probably change jobs…which means you’ll go a “recruiting process” about 100 times. It’s like professional frog kissing… and there’s always one slimy one.

Who is your Audience?

Aside from the fact that the email missed a word (through), the proposition was fairly attractive. Very politely I wrote back (because I believe in business courtesy) that I was not interested, because of my background (which she should have researched before sending the email).” I am not a sales person looking for a job, but a business owner, so the offer is not relevant to me” was my response.

At that point, the only appropriate answer to me should have been a nice “Thank you for clarifying“.

BUT, there was another email that landed in my inbox just the next day, stating the following:

I understand! Thanks so much for your response, in fact “”thank you but I’m not interested”” is our most common response. When you have 90 seconds, check this video.

It’s not that I am not interested, I am not your target audience!

At that point I decided to write this blog, because there is a pattern here and readers of my articles know that I usually pick topics that showcase common mistakes or misunderstandings.

Being not interested is quite different from not being qualified.

So, what are the differences?

Sometimes, service offerings are very compelling, really suited for my business needs but I might not be interested because of budget restraints, not having enough time to look at the offering, or any other valid reason that keeps me from pursuing the offer.

It ain’t me babe!

Not being qualified for a service offering means that the person who approaches you didn’t do their research. They don’t know enough about you and/or your company, or you are not the decision maker for the product/service offering.

If you don’t do your research as a sales person, you might end up targeting people who are not qualified to begin with. This young lady was obviously trained to search out contacts on LinkedIn, using the keyword “sales” and not qualifying them any further.  Qualifying potential buyers is key when prospecting for new business.

Too many sales people spend way too much time chasing prospects that are not a good match for their service offering. That’s why some sales pipelines are dry, because too much time is spent to engaging with the wrong audiences.

Don’t be a time waster to yourself or others

When prospecting, develop a prospect avatar so you understand who is qualified for your service offering and determine who is not. This will not only help you prospect more effectively, it will also keep you from being a time waster to the people you target.

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Posted in: Prospecting, Sales, Sales Effectiveness

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27 Oct

Buyer & Seller Fears

by Monika

Happy reading and in light of Halloween coming up, Don’t De Scared!!

halloween

Sales people often carry a conscious or sub-conscious fear of rejection. And on the other side, we often find buyers who are fearful of making a (possibly bad) decision. Ultimately, they would be held accountable if things don’t go well, right?

We have repeatedly observed that making buying recommendations or decisions on technology can be daunting for buyers. If they make the wrong decision, they will be held responsible. Not that many people are extremely tech savvy, so decision makers must rely on a sales person to guide them through the process. And it is here where we can shine and build trust.

Sales is a business practice that is very personal. There is no other business discipline where performance is a reflection of who you are, other than sales. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional, personal and involves product and technical knowledge. We sales professionals live by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, every call, every client interaction.

Where Does This Fear in Sales Originate?

It starts for most of us with the dread of cold calling/prospecting efforts that so many sales people dislike (or are even terrified of). It might be a mindset issue that is keeping us from breaking through to others. Although counter-intuitive, being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). In a sales environment it’s a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on earning commission.

Fear-less Cold-Calling/Prospecting? Is there such a thing?

There are various ways to deal with the fear of Cold-Calling.

The process can be outsourced, because prospecting is a unique skill set, or you can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling by providing a framework, structure and training, where it’s easier for them to succeed. Structuring the prospecting process with the right kind of research and providing training are two of a number of ways to reduce the fear of cold-calling.

Sales is a process and it’s important to develop a structure within an organization where sales people can succeed.

Fear of Asking for the Sale?

Not everybody is inherently equipped to ask for money and that’s essentially what we need to do in a sales environment. We are asking people to trust us to part with their or their company’s funds. If our prospects end up buying from us and the product/service doesn’t meet their needs, we will be held accountable for that decision. All of those areas are deeply emotional and directly connected to mindset. A good salesperson can be trained on how and when to ask for a sale that is not fear-inducing!

Asking the Right Questions

Some questions are tough to ask. The fear of rejection can be a constant. But without asking those questions, we will dance around “commitment”, not understanding whether this prospect is truly interested and willing to commit or is just shopping around.

Keep in mind that when you operate in a business environment the expectations are that a transaction will take place at some point. Therefore, as a sales person we have every right to ask questions such as “If we can meet all your requirements, can I safely assume that you will approve our agreement and move forward?”

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. Just as we are not afraid of flying because we don’t like to be up in the air, we are afraid because the plane might crash and we have no “control”. Being aware that the fear is present and just doing what we need to do, is one way to overcome.

Personally, I was terrified of flying until I looked at the statistics that helped me understand that it’s still the safest choice. I opted to fly even if I could have driven, just to help me conquer the fear.

In sales, we should make as many calls as possible, asking the tough questions to help us getting used to potential rejection, but also realizing that most of the time the outcome will be positive.

 Help Can Be Right There in Your Team!

The most effective way to help sales people be more comfortable in a sales environment is to help them feel more confident. Confidence often stems from having been successful, so when companies establish an environment where sales people are nurtured and trained rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.

Also, understand what your sales people are good at and where the weaknesses (or as we prefer to say: the opportunities for growth) lie. That is essential when helping them.

 Identify What’s Working and What Can Be Improved

So, in the end, always try to analyze why your sales people are either producing or not producing. Develop their strengths, and nurture their areas of opportunities through training and support. The investment you make can pay off manifold if you choose training that effects real, lasting behavioral change! We invite to take a tour of our cutting-edge blended e-Learning & Live training program, Consultative Sales Certification Program.

And finally, just maybe, some sales people might have talents that are better suited for a different role in your organization other than sales. You might detect that in the way they position your company offering, or in their attitude and/or work habits. You will definitely find out if revenue is lacking.

Whatever changes you decide to make to increase your sales revenues, make sure you know your sales staff well. They are your first and foremost representation. We should all shine as sales people, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more “fearless” salespeople!

Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Sales Certification, Consultative Sales Certification, Consultative Selling, Mindset & Sales, Sales, Sales Certification, Sales Effectiveness

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19 Jul

Selling Technology

by Monika

 

Cradlepoint Router

Traditionally, sales people (especially when they are selling technology or technology enabled solutions) are trained and conditioned to lead with features and benefits rather than focusing on the Value of their service offering to their prospect’s business.

The issue with this approach is not only that every other sales person on the planet, especially competitors, will say the same thing, BUT the bigger issue, as we have so often witnessed, is that “People don’t know what they don’t know”.

What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I am not a very tech savvy person, but I am a consumer, a buyer, a business person, so I am looking at sales people to act as consultants and to guide me.

What Experiences Have You Had Buying A New Car?

Right now, I am in the process of buying a new car and I am really lost, because I don’t know what I don’t know and car sales people certainly aren’t trained to focus on understanding what is of Value to me. They lead with features of their vehicles all the time, and occasionally add a few of the benefits. They tell me the car has good traction (a feature), or a model has navigation (also a feature) connected hands-free to my smartphone so I can keep my eyes on the road (a benefit). But what they fail to mention is, what Value those features and benefits would bring to my life.

If they would ask me questions, such as “How important is safety to you?”, then they could mention all the features and benefits that their car showcases and wrap it into a safety message. Being able to navigate without having to use a phone would mean I can focus on driving a car rather than handling my phone (a benefit of the navigation system), wouldn’t it?  And that would mean driving safer (Value)!

This is the area where most sales people fail. They don’t understand that people don’t buy their products or services’ features, but people are looking at solutions that can improve their life or business.

What is a Failover? – And How Could I Possibly Need it?

One of our clients in the technology industry sells failover solutions. They are the leader in their industry and their solutions ensure that companies are connected to the internet at all times. BUT, what does that mean to the clients?

If a salesperson would call on me and ask “Are you interested in our failover solutions?” I wouldn’t even know what they are referring to. While I am one of those people who might ask what a failover solution actually is, (that is, if that call is not the tenth useless sales call I had received that day) there are many people out there who wouldn’t (perhaps they don’t want to admit that they don’t know something or simply have no clue) and just say “I’m not interested, thanks”.

And, here we go again. We don’t know what we don’t know!

The Alternative – Show Me The VALUE!!

If the salesperson however were to ask me if I ever experienced internet outages (who hasn’t?) and how that affected my business, that would certainly lead to a very interesting conversation. First of all, I would mention the many times when that has happened and how disruptive it has been to my business.

This would not only create awareness of an issue that I hadn’t entertained since the last time it happened, it would also shine light on the fact that I might have potentially lost money during those outages. In essence, I didn’t know that I needed a “failover” solution, because I don’t know what I don’t know.

Here is what’s important to understand when selling solutions. Features and benefits just support the Value that your solution brings to the market. Your sales people first need to learn to lead with Value and ask the right kind of pertinent questions in order to create the awareness in the mind of the buyer how a particular offering is relevant to and of VALUE to their business.

If you as a sales person fail to do that, you will not be able to sell as successfully as you potentially could. If companies don’t help their sales people embrace a Consultative approach to Sales, Business Development and Service, plus support them with training and insights of successful and experienced professionals, the competition will at some point have a leg up on them. Your product or service that “sells itself” will not be able to do that for all time. Eventually competitors will appear with something similar, perhaps less expensive and possibly offer about the same features. What differentiates yours from the competition, then?

That’s just the way it is. In the end, people don’t buy features and benefits but they do buy what your product or service means to their bottom line, their business effectiveness or their business’ reputation.

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

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….AND then Think Again – Not all Austrians yodel!

yodeler-2-web

I have worked in Europe for half of a lifetime and then another half here in the U.S. While there are some similarities in the way we do business, the differences are vast and ignoring them can have devastating effects. Thinking Globally is great, but it’s also important to Act Locally.

To start with, Europe is not as uniform as the US. Don’t get me wrong, selling in the Midwest area of the US is vastly different than selling in the New York tri-state area. Having done both, it’s important to understand that in New York you literally have a “minute” (ever wonder how the “New York minute” came about?) to get your point across while in the Midwest people are a bit more patient.  Just because people in the South seem more relaxed and give you more time, doesn’t mean that they will buy from you. On the flip side, people on the Northeast Coast can be rather abrupt, but that doesn’t mean they are not interested.

Europe on the other hand not only has different geographies, but also a large number of different countries (EU & non-EU over 35) with vastly different languages. Within those countries there are also social and linguistic nuances, and prejudices that are older than the history of the U.S. coupled with a desire to stay authentic.

Below are some tips on how to be successful when venturing abroad or communicating with international audiences.

Don’t Think You Can Go It Alone

The biggest mistake would be to think that you can do business in another region without local presence or, at least advice. Hire a local business person within your industry and ask that person for advice on what to do and what NOT to do. Once you have that person on board, take their advice, understand and adjust to the cultural differences.

Geography Alone Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

My home country Austria is located in the Eastern Central part of Europe, but don’t make the mistake to think that we are Eastern Europeans. We are by any means of the definition culturally situated in the West because of our history. A big American company made the mistake to divide Europe by geography and put Austria in the Eastern region (along with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, etc. – all countries with emerging economies) instead of aligning it with Germany, Italy, Switzerland where Austria has not only traditionally been part of but also has close economic ties. The results were pretty devastating. The very successful Austrian management team resented the change and it was difficult to manage Austria within a region where there was no history of an open market economy until the Iron Curtain came down in 1989. Big mistake!

Try to Understand the Way Business is Done

Go easy on the PowerPoint and have a Cappuccino instead. Many of my friends in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy tell me that to this day business is done by building relationships, taking prospects and clients out, drinking and eating. While we here in the U.S. still enjoy meeting client contacts in-person, it’s no longer essential to the success of a company. I have done business with clients that I didn’t meet until year 3 into the engagement, something that is still rare in Europe. Wining and dining are still essential ingredients to being successful in many markets. And so, if you do not or someone you hire doesn’t embrace that concept, it will be hard to build trust.

English is Standard, but Watch out for Linguistic Differences

Of course, English is the universal language and most companies that want to do business internationally will hire people who speak English quite well. That doesn’t mean that they can master all the facets of the language.  Be careful in the way you communicate and make sure that what you are trying to say is something that is properly understood by your counterpart. Avoid idioms and explain your proposition in more than one way. I have sat in on many meetings with international companies and sometimes people try to translate certain terminology in a way where it doesn’t make sense in the other language. This can lead to confusion and mismanaged expectations

Understand Traditions and Heritage

Coming late to a meeting in Germany or Austria is really rather unacceptable. In Italy you will probably not leave a bad impression, only if you are late and a bad dresser, too! Joking aside (not really!), don’t make the mistake to think that Germany, Austria and Switzerland have a lot in common just because we all speak German (at least in parts of Switzerland). While there are many similarities, the differences run deep and so do some animosities as well.

European countries are very proud of their heritage, their food and their traditions. When you make references, be sure that you really know what you are referring to. Austrians don’t yodel (as a matter of fact, most of us have never heard of, least of all watched “The Sound of Music”) and not all Germans are rigid.

In closing, my strongest suggestion is to keep an open mind and not to stereotype. Like in every sales situation, it’s best to observe, learn, ask questions, adjust and most importantly to listen. Humility goes a long way, especially when dealing with a different culture. Nobody likes to think that they are inferior and the best success can be achieved when we embrace rather than judge.

Posted in: Positioning

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When it comes to selling technology, many sales people are trained or conditioned to sell the whistles and bells of their product or service (i.e. – the features), in an attempt to convince prospects of their offering being better than the competition’s.  They focus on the technical (often slight) differences and advantages that their technology brings to the table, rather than positioning value. One danger of that approach is that very often the discussion ends up to be price focused. You can imagine many technologies offer similar features and the differences, right? While these features are important to the company who sells the technology, they might not be seen immediately as of value to the prospect.

So, let’s start from here: It’s really NOT about the technology; it’s about what VALUE your specific technology solution can bring to your prospect’s business.

And how do we do that? Right! You guessed it! By asking the right questions at the right time AND actively listening AND positioning your solution as relevant to your customer’s goals. Just rattling of your pitch is NOT going to get you very far in this day and age of the educated and curious buyer.

The goal in every interaction with the prospect should be to discover what is of unique value to that particular individual and then provide a sensible solution accordingly.

Finding the Right Person to Target

Tailor your messages to the need of the person you are engaging with. Technology sales people tend to lead with technology, even when they talk to decision makers who are not tech savvy. This often leads to the prospects being overwhelmed and/or confused.

Technology details are only relevant to the person who is a tech buyer, the person who understands the differences and nuances when it comes to technology. That person is seldom the person who writes the checks. Economic buyers however are always interested in what the technology can do for their business, in other words how it can help them make or save money or time.

Why Not Start Prospecting from the Top?

It is very tempting for technology sales people to target technical buyers, but it’s not always the right approach. If you, as a sales person can identify how your prospect company could benefit from your solution, you might be better off targeting higher level executives, such as the CEO, the CTO, COO, etc. If your technology can help companies make or save money, then (and you can bet your money on this) you will get the attention from senior management. It’s all about doing your research and crafting the right message.  It’s also a lot easier to work your way down within an organization, than to climb up the organizational ladder.

Avoid Getting Stuck in the Middle (Mid-Level Management)

Mid-management is often protective of their turf and they very rarely have final decision-making power. So, if you engage with them (even if they are responsive), you will have to rely on them to communicate the value of your solution to their management, the people who will give final approval. Why would you want to risk that? If you, however, get buy-in from top management first, and they then involve the technical experts or management, you can be assured that your sales cycle will be shorter.

Lead with Value

Again, it’s not about the technology, but what the technology can do for that organization. That proposition might be different for every single company, so you will need to do your research. In the end it will pay off. If you offer a technology that can help companies stay connected to the internet without interruptions (like one of our clients), focus on the value that solution brings to this client. Losing internet connection these days can have devastating effects on companies, but the consequences might differ depending on the industry. In the public sector, it might mean that ambulances don’t get to an accident scene on time. In a retail environment the effects might be less drastic, but very costly. If your client’s employees can’t open hundreds or more of their cash registers due to a lost connection, it can result in lost revenue.

Higher Pricing Not an Issue? How To Do That?

Here is the lesson to learn for sales people who sell technology enabled solutions. Higher price might not be an issue, as long as the solution that you are offering is relevant to the individual who is buying it and they feel it’s worth it. Personally, I don’t mind paying more if I actually get more, but that’s up to the sales person to help me understand. Good sales people help clients understand the value of their solution and why the cheaper solution might have downfalls.

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Posted in: Sales, Uncategorized

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