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Courtesy in Sales is important

Posted on: October 5th, 2017 by Monika No Comments

Courtesy

Recently, I have been following a LinkedIn discussion where the following question was posed? When calling on people, should you ask a prospect whether it’s a good time to speak? Simple business courtesy, right?

Living in a consultative sales world, and teaching the principles of a consultative sales process, to me the answer was simple. Yes. Being considerate is one of the core principles of consultative selling and it should be the core principle when doing business.

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.

Is Sales the Exception?
So, why is it that many sales people are encouraged by management to dive into a pitch? It is this very practice that gives this profession a bad name? We would never even think of storming into somebody’s office, putting down our laptop and diving into a conversation. Why do we think it’s ok to do it over the phone?

First impressions count

In my many years of calling on C-Level executives, I have come to believe that when you interrupt somebody’s work day, you should always be courteous and professional. 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.

Engaging with confidence will open doors and ears
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”. That statement 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 isn’t a recipe for success.

Develop a call strategy
Too many sales people dial for dollars, without doing research or preparing for each call. When you actually have something to share with a prospect, leading with value and you are well prepared the chances that the person will listen to what you want to say are much higher. One of the reasons why some sales people come across as rude is that they are not in a position to have a meaningful conversation. They don’t know the prospect’s business, nor have they done research on the role of the person they are calling on. They are just pitching their service.

It’s about building trust

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. It’s all about building a relationship where people can trust you. Why would I trust somebody who randomly calls me to sell me something I might not need?

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. BUT, you will have to prepare and do your research prior sending to the email, so there is no shortcuts.

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

Sales Coaching = Sales Success

Posted on: July 27th, 2017 by Monika No Comments

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.

6 Ways to Shorten your Sales Cycle

Posted on: July 1st, 2017 by Monika No Comments

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!

Communicating Effectively

Posted on: January 27th, 2017 by Monika No Comments

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!

 

5 Ways to Make More Money in 2017

Posted on: December 13th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

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!

Buyer & Seller Fears

Posted on: October 27th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

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!

Selling Technology

Posted on: July 19th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

 

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.

5 Fundamentals of Sales Success

Posted on: March 24th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

I have been skiing a lot this year, because we have had decent amounts of snow and also because I am Austrian, and that’s what we do. I am also the Chief Sales Officer of my company, so sales success is equally important to me.

My son’s girlfriend started the sport two years ago, and while she is making a lot of progress, I am also aware how important it is for her to have a solid foundation. Skiing in New England is not always fun, because the level of other skiers’ expertise on the slopes is fairly basic. And it seems a great number of people haven’t learned proper skiing rules and etiquette (such as looking up the mountain before you push off), so it is more dangerous to ski in these areas – and that’s not because of the terrain (really not that challenging) but because accidents can be caused by inexperience.

This (of course!) reminded me of selling, and, as many of you know, I like comparisons. It reminded me that if you have never learned the basics, you won’t be able to build upon solid skills, or in the worst case scenario you will build upon bad habits. So while you might be able to ski downhill faster, you won’t ski better or safer.

The same holds true for sales. If sales people (especially in a consultative sale environment) don’t learn the fundamentals of a consultative sales process, they will just stay mediocre at best. So, what are some of the basics that are important to become a successful sales person?

  • Understanding the Process

Sales is a process and it’s important to establish one that reflects the reality of your environment. By that I mean that people in a B2B industry will need to set-up a different process than companies that target end-user consumers.

  • Identifying Best Targets – Most Profitable Markets & Decision-Makers/Influencers

Wouldn’t you rather get to the real decision-makers at an ideal prospect in a profitable market fast? So, it is also fundamental to understand who the decision-maker is within a prospect company as your first and, potentially, most important step. It is also fundamental to identify what industries are most profitable and which decision makers within prospect companies make up a good client profile.

  • Establishing/Management of Your Database/CRM system

The backbone of every organization is the health of their database/CRM system. Another fundamental if you want to achieve success. Consistency and transparency are key in managing the data and the process. For some companies it might be enough to work off a spreadsheet (wouldn’t recommend it, but it does work), but most companies will need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Personally, I am a big fan of Salesforce.com. It’s not perfect, but it’s intuitive and easy to handle.

  • Developing Effective Messaging

What you say and how you say it, is also fundamental when building relationships with prospects. There is nothing more annoying than sales people not owning their messages, being vague or at worst stumbling over their own words and being irrelevant.

And, if you work in an environment where the sales culture is focused on “making the numbers” rather than understanding HOW to make the numbers, it’s really hard to succeed, especially if you are new at what you’re doing.

  • Commitment to sales

One of the fundamentals of building an effective sales team is the commitment to sales and providing the resources necessary to succeed. Recently, we were hired by a client in Pennsylvania to train newly hired sales people with very limited or no experience in their profession. We spent an entire week with the new recruits. Our goal was to provide them with the fundamentals of a consultative approach to sales and prospecting and to help them understand how to create their sales process so they will be able to represent their organization in the utmost professional way.

When these sales people were being interviewed, their managers (our clients) explained the sales process to them and that they would be receiving intensive sales training. They had not received those messages in previous job interviews. So, as a suggestion for all those job-hunting, when you interview for sales positions, ask questions about the company’s sales cycle, if they have established a sales process and what fundamentals they expect or will train you on. It’s important. It’s fundamental!

In Austria, most children learn how to ski in skiing school. As kids in elementary and secondary schools, we are sent to skiing camps every year and the first couple of days we don’t even get to ski. We need to listen to ski rules, climb up the mountain (on skis- sideways!), master the (very challenging) T-Lifts. It is only mid-week, once we have gone through all the basics that we are allowed on the mountain to actually ski.

Maybe that should be a standard practice for companies. Before you have a sales person pick up the phone to prospect, have them work through the fundamentals (train them on the fundamentals) so they understand what sales is all about and how to create and follow a successful process.

Better Sales Prospecting

Posted on: January 22nd, 2016 by Monika No Comments

Sales Prospecting – How to avoid 5 Common Pitfalls

January always means new (or renewed) intentions, goals and looking at the year ahead. In sales that means we need to bring in new business, prospect and nurture. For many of our clients, prospecting is a challenge, so I wanted to share some insights to help everybody get off to a good start.

As a brief introduction, we experienced a really nice surprise this past December when a prospect decided to work with us, after I had been engaging with them for almost two years. It just shows that perseverance and following a process always pays off one way or another. (It can also mean that it’s time to move on to the next prospect. You can read more about that in my post on LinkedIn using the link below.)

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-owe-you-business-monika-d-agostino?trk=mp-author-card

Many of my clients ask me for advice about successful prospecting, especially when it’s something that their sales people are struggling with. Developing new business, prospecting, cold calling can certainly be the most challenging part of the sales process. After all, you are interrupting somebody’s day. It’s almost like being on a first date, testing the waters, making sure that there is alignment.

But, that’s exactly what’s missing in many situations when sales people are calling on prospects. I.e.: making sure that there is a potential fit.

Try to put yourself into your prospect’s shoes. What would you want to hear when you pick up the phone where somebody is interrupting your day? Would you want to hear a sales pitch, or would you want to listen to somebody who is potentially adding value to your life?

In this blog, I’d like to shine a light on 5 common pitfalls you can avoid when prospecting.

Getting the Right Fit

Just as in trying on a new suit – if it’s not the right fit you wouldn’t buy it. Right? The same holds true in sales – If there is no fit, there is no motivating reason to have a sales conversation. But in order for you, the sales person, to determine if this prospect could be a client, you need to do your homework first. Most sales representatives who call me don’t know my business, have never visited my website or my LinkedIn profile. They are just rattling off a sales pitch, in the worst case scenario using a bad script and in some cases they even stutter around trying to get to a point (leaving me to wonder: why they are using a script in the first place?).

So, don’t look for a fit if there is none. No matter how much research you do and how well you prepare for a call, sometimes it’s better to move on. Don’t push it, there is no sense in trying to find alignment if there is none. Reasons can be plentiful.

For my own business, I have found that some companies don’t want to commit to a long-term sales process, which means that they are not really committed to a consultative sales approach. I could push them, but it wouldn’t lead to a successful client engagement. Sometimes, it’s best to leave a good impression and to move on.

So, the first common pitfall to avoid is: Calling a potential prospect NOT knowing anything about them, their potential needs or even their name and looking for a fit if there is NONE!

A Script is a Guideline

There is nothing wrong with using a script, as long as it is used a guideline. The script or guideline also needs to include potential answers to questions that the prospect could possibly ask. It’s almost like envisioning a scenario and preparing to respond. A script should also be a living document rather than a static instrument. It needs to be changed on a regular basis, whenever the environment shifts, which in this business environment happens quite frequently. Your competitors can change, so can regulation and mandates.

Second common pitfall: Rattling off a pitch using a script that might not be suited for the prospect’s current needs.

Be Brief, Distinct and add VALUE!

People will appreciate it when you get to the point fast. And by that I mean that you need to have a value statement. Let me give you an example. When I call on organizations with a national or global presence to present our sales training, I always focus on the fact that we help companies increase revenue and profitability by helping them establish a common, customer-centric sales and service language across a large sales organization. That is something of importance and value for organizations with sales people widely spread around the country, or the globe for that matter. But this value statement works most accurately for companies with a large sales force in multiple locations!

If you have been a reader of my newsletter, you’ll know how much we stress NOT to focus on features and benefits solely. Features and benefits can be used to support your value statement at a later point in the conversation.

For example, the fact that our training programs use a blended e-Learning/customized coaching approach is something that supports the fact that we help our clients increase revenue and profitability by establishing a common, customer-centric sales and service language across a diverse, decentralized organization. It’s not something that needs to be mentioned first, especially since there are many other providers who claim to have effective on-line training. It’s not a differentiator and e-Learning might not be something that is attractive to a company at first. How you get to the results that are of value for your client is not something that you necessarily want to lead with.

Third common pitfall: Focusing on features and benefits, rather than focusing on the value that your solution provides to your prospect.

Know Who You Are Talking To

When calling on people, try to understand their role within the organization and their responsibilities. When I call on a CEO (which is always my first outreach, as I have found it’s more effective to work your way down, rather than up the ladder), I always focus on the overall business goals. Top line value statements. Increased revenue and higher profitability are messages that resonate with CEOs.

Once I get to the sales or training manager, my message shifts. Then it’s more about the nitty-gritty, the details, ins and outs of the program. Of course, increased revenue and higher profitability are also important to the sales manager, but they also want to make sure that their people don’t spend too much time away from their desks, so I talk about the fact that their sales people never have to leave their desk and they will still become more successful.

Fourth common pitfall: Not knowing what the purchasing motivations of each individual decision maker are.

Be Personal

In closing – people buy from people. Be personal. Don’t try to “sell them”. We all know that the goal of a sales person is to sell, and that is perfectly acceptable – nothing wrong with that. And in contrast to being “sold”, I prefer to buy from people who genuinely understand my business and approach me with a value proposition that will help me make my company more successful.

But, first you need to connect with me, figure out how best to communicate with me. Then you need to know my business and understand my challenges. Once you have established rapport (and there’s a science to that, and as with any communication skill, it can be learned!), it’s much easier to have a conversation and to build trust.

Fifth common pitfall: Moving from one prospect to the next, without taking the time to really connect and listen.

And yes, you can learn how to be a SuperSeller TM and become a top prospector. We invite you to explore our Consultative Sales Certification Program at: http://www.getsalescertified.com/index

And I wish you much success in your prospecting efforts!

Holiday Cheer – Stay Clear of Fear

Posted on: December 16th, 2015 by Monika No Comments
Reflecting on 2015 I would like to share some best practices and observations we have been so fortunate to experience, hoping that we will continue our journey together into a successful 2016.

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Sales people are measured by numbers and if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us. Fear is not always an obstacle; it can also be a driver as long as we don’t become frantic in our attempts to make things happen. There is nothing more annoying or aggravating than an over-eager sales person. Once we become desperate, sound strategy usually goes out the window.

The best remedy is to develop a long-term and short term SMART objectives and to stick with them (and adjust to them if necessary). It will help with anxiety and it will also make for better business decisions.

Avoid Panic

While we are talking about fear, we should also talk about panic, which is usually a result of fear. Panic often sets in when sales don’t happen.  Then situations happen, for example when CEOs take over sales training, or attend sales calls and start micro-managing everything and anything that has to do with sales.

They fear for their company’s survival and that’s understandable. Fear is contagious and once the CEO panics, it often affects sales management and it can have a snowball effect on the sales team. Then sales people might fear that they could lose their job or that they won’t be making any money.

Then sales managers do both. They panic and fear, both for their team, for their compensation and for their reputation.

The best recipe is to stay calm and on-track. Again, if there is a plan in place, success will follow. Sometimes, it’s good to review the plan and maybe adjust it a bit, but to throw out the plan altogether once things don’t happen immediately is a poor choice and it can lead to disastrous results.  In a consultative sales environment, planning is an absolute essential.

Embrace Rejection

The best sales people are those who know that “no” is the second best answer. Rejection is part of our daily life and embracing it helps us understand our target audience better. In our many years of searching and observing sales professionals, we have seen far too many sales people chase good conversations rather than closing a sale.

We like to refer to those sales people as “professional visitors”, because they thrive on making connections and not on getting to the next step. The goal of every interaction in sales is to get one step closer to a sale, not to have better chats.

The best sales people are the ones who invite a “no thanks” to gauge a potential fit. There is no point in chasing after a prospect who is not a good fit. Finding out sooner rather than later that you can’t provide prospect real value gives you the freedom and time to move on to a better opportunity.

People Buy from People

That’s really the bottom line. More and more articles, posts and blogs are about the fact that it’s still people who are involved in the decision making process.

Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting. Make your messages stand out. Personalize your emails, don’t mass market. Do research on the people you target so you can have meaningful conversations with them. Remember, that everybody has a personal life and sometimes things can go wrong, so be mindful of others.

A Lesson from my Dog

My dog Rhondo (whom we rescued 6 years ago) teaches me lessons every day. While he is super focused on getting food and attention, he is also mindful, compassionate and very often more considerate than some sales people I encounter.

Rhondo_MD

Unlike many sales people who call on me, Rhondo hardly ever interrupts my work day because he intuitively feels when I have time to play or when I am focused on something else. It’s the way I move and the way I sound that provides hints to my dog. (Intuitive behavioral adjusting)

My dog is in my office with me every single day. He never barks, never even makes a sound. He lies on the office couch (yes, he is spoiled!) and it is not until I put my headphones back into the holder, making a gentle click, signaling to him that I might be ready for a break. That’s when he starts moving. But it’s not until I get up and tell him that we are leaving the office that he actually leaves the couch to follow me.

Following gentle hints from our prospects, understanding when to talk and when to listen, identifying behavioral and communication styles and just simply paying attention can be a good recipe to making your contacts feel comfortable and to building trust. And you we all know, trust is essential when it comes to building solid, long-standing business relationships.

In this spirit, let’s stick with our plan (and if you don’t have one, this is the best time to develop a strategy) and focus on the positive. There is always something to be grateful for.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Holiday season and a Successful 2016!