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The DRESS Phenomenon & the Color of Sales Perception

Posted on: March 6th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

Last month I attended a book presentation hosted by the University of Rochester New York Metro Women. A friend who is an Alumni invited me to this event and I was intrigued, because of the book’s title: “Conversational Intelligence“.

Tying in with Conversational Intelligence, today’s blog is a Guest Blog, by my trusted business partner, Marcia Gauger, founder & Chief Learning Officer of DVR Learning and co-creator of our Consultative Sales Certification Program (CSC).

I’m sure you have heard about THE DRESS discussion (I personally was on Team White/Gold), but for me, what was really important to understand, especially in a sales environment is that we all digest information in different ways. The recent discussion about THE DRESS that dominated social media for quite some time is a perfect example. Marcia talks about the consequences from a sales perspective. Happy Reading!

Truly Understand – Not Just Wait for Your Cue!

As a sales person, I am always interested to find ways to be more effective in my communication so I gladly commuted to New York on a snowy day to attend the book presentation of ”Conversational Intelligence“. The author Judith Glaser and I chatted before the official start of the program and I was immediately captivated by the way she views the world. It’s all about listening, really. Understanding what others are actually saying instead of just waiting for a cue to talk.

Trust Your Voice

The book is supported by research and it’s still a fascinating read. Judith’s writing added an additional dimension as to why we connect with people and why sometimes our defenses go up. Instead of hearing what a person has to say we listen to a movie narrative in our own head. We anticipate instead of really understanding. But the good news is that there are techniques that we can apply to make a change. I learned how you can move from Distrust to Trust, because when you lose Trust you lose your Voice.

For me as a sales person, but also a mother, wife and friend it was an eye opener. If you want to improve the way you interact with other people, if you want to be heard but also be a better listener (and shouldn’t we all, especially being in sales?), buy this book (available on Amazon).

Judith is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute, whose clients include American Airlines, American Express, Cisco, Coach, IBM, just to name a few. www.benchmarkcommunicationsinc.com

The Dress Phenomenon & the Color of Sales Perception

You’ve likely heard the recent story or have seen the pictures of the now infamous dress. One snapshot and the debate began, is it white and gold or blue and black? Science chimed in and explained that we potentially see things differently based on the way that our minds filter images and light.

But what does this have to do with sales and perception? Quite a bit, actually. The challenge for consultative sales professionals is two-fold. The first challenge is seeing the perceived situation through the customer’s lens. The second is framing a solution that is perceived to align with that individual’s picture of their present state of affairs versus desired state. The risk of misalignment is significant throughout the sales process, especially if the client themselves are looking through a distorted or cloudy lens which is often the case when clients don’t fully recognize the potential need.

Why is it that regarding their product knowledge, some of the brightest and most technically astute people cannot sell?

We know that if sales professionals concentrate strictly on product knowledge and the technical factors regarding their solutions, they risk missing the filters each client applies – or the “color” in which the customer perceives the solution. Just as individuals may see colors in that dress differently based on the way the mind filters light, individuals also use filters when making business decisions. If you ignore or fail to recognize these filters, your chance of connecting with the client plummets. Luckily, we can identify the most significant filters that clients use when making decisions, and, if applied correctly, the chances of “firing on all cylinders” with the client increases substantially.

So, What Are These Filters?

The filters presented in this example are absolutely key and foundational to implementing a consultative sales strategy and interaction that is impactful for each client and situation. There even more filters that you could consider, accelerating the risk of not connecting.

The most significant filters we apply in a consultative approach are: Behavioral Styles (based on DiSC), Communication Styles and Convincer Strategies (triggers or sorting patterns of influence)

To apply specific filters for your customer base, we could apply additional psychological factors to the mix such as behavioral economics, generational considerations, financial aspects and other key indicators that you would glean from accurate market research data regarding how your clients buy from you. This example also assumes that the salesperson knows their product information, industry knowledge and can navigate their internal customers, or you could also consider that another variable in the equation, again adding risk.

The Sales Equation

Consider this example, which displays some of the most common filters used in making sales and business decisions. In this example, if the salesperson relies solely on the “story”, which includes their product knowledge and expertise, they have a 1 in 64 chance of completely connecting with the customer. (4 behavioral styles x 4 communication styles x 4 convincer strategies). If they correctly identify and appeal to each filter, then they totally connect both in terms of understanding the customer’s picture and providing a solution that matches. If you miss just one filter, at best the message is mixed and at worst it is completely wrong.

 You Can’t Force Another Person to Filter Messages the Way that You Do!

This explains why salespeople lose opportunities even when the client situation and your solution looks identical to another that a different client may have fully embraced. To top it off, without the knowledge and experience to recognize these filters, salespeople default to their own filters when presenting their solutions to customers, which is taking a gamble that each customer will use the same filters as they do when making decisions.

In the example of the “dress”, you can’t control how your brain sees it and that is why some people cannot see the dress in blue/black and others cannot see the dress in white and gold. Hence the debate. If Joe sees it as “A” and Mary sees it as “B”, Joe and Mary may NEVER agree on the color of the dress because their perception is polar opposite.

The same is true with sales filters. You can’t force someone to see through your filters or the same set of filters that you are using. You can, however, recognize the filters and adjust your approach to the customer’s lens.

Marcia Gauger
Marcia is the CLO of DVR Learning, LLC and co-developer of our Consultative Sales Certification Program (CSC), a nationally accredited sales capability and development curriculum. Marcia has devoted over 25 years to working with sales professionals and managers to enhance sales performance. Marcia has published hundreds of articles on sales and service related issues.

5 Steps to overcome the fear of Cold Calling

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

It’s real. Cold Calling is scary to most sales people. In a consultative sales environment phone conversations are still a very effective way to develop new business. But, it’s like the fear of flying. While we consciously know that flying is still the safest way to travel, there is always those planes that crash.

The fear of cold calling, or the reluctance to do it stems from the same fear. We are afraid of rejection, that somebody could hang up on us. We don’t want to be rejected. Actually, in my experience when you prepare properly before picking up the phone, the likelihood of somebody hanging up on you is really slim, but the fear is there.
So what is a sales person to do?

1)Research, research, research
The better you are prepared before picking up the phone, the higher your chances that your prospect will listen. As long as you are targeted in your approach and you know who your ideal prospects are there is really nothing to fear than fear itself.

2) Be personal and professional
There is this common expectation that sales people should be aggressive. In my experience, the more gentle, consultative and professional you are, the higher your success rate will be. Never treat anybody in any way other than the way you would like to be treated.

3) Listen, listen, listen
Don’t rattle off a pitch, but start with a casual introduction and then slowly shift into asking questions. The more information you can extract from your prospects (personal or professional), the better equipped you will be to follow up and build a relationship.

4) Be relevant and honest
It doesn’t make sense to talk prospects into a need. Your product or solution has to be a fit, otherwise you will waste your and your prospect’s time. If you find out that there is no current need, leave a good impression, try to be helpful if possible (by maybe providing an alternative solution) and get permission to stay in touch.

5) Pick up the phone!
Yes you heard me, just do it. There is just no way around it. Well scripted and written e-mails go a long way, but if you are selling in a consultative sales environment you won’t get around a phone call. Trust me, it will pay off!

And finally, get help! There is many coaches out there who are able to help. Prospecting, like all the other sales aspects can be learned. We work with sales professionals every day, helping them become more confident in what they do, even the ones who are very afraid. In our Consultative Sales Certification Program there is an entire module that is focused on prospecting new business.

http://www.getsalescertified.com/curriculum-expanding-your-business

Taking Sales Training Out of the Classroom

Posted on: February 13th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

For over a decade I have been practicing Yoga and it’s helped me stay balanced, as much as one can expect from a Dominant D-Behavioral Type (or Type A Personality) like myself. It’s been a process to focus on my breathing, taking time out of my busy schedule to stretch myself to the limit, but it’s paid off. I am certainly calmer and more focused than 10 years ago.

Take Yoga off the Mat!

Years ago, one of my Yoga teachers kept saying: “What’s really important is that we take Yoga off the mat”.  At first I didn’t quite understand what she meant. But then, one day, I walked out of the Yoga studio onto the parking lot and one of my fellow Yoga practitioners almost drove into me. He was pulling out of his parking spot like Mario Andretti back in his days taking off from the pole position in a Formula One race.

That’s when it clicked. Taking Yoga off the mat means that you practice Yoga and the principles every single day. That means that you should be more mindful, enjoying the moment, breathing, etc.

Take Sales Training off the Mat (= out of the Classroom)

The same principles hold true when it comes to sales training. We need to take it out of the classroom. That’s why I am so passionate about our training model and process. Our Consultative Sales training program keeps the learners (= sales and service professionals) involved in the learning and real-life application process for 6 to 8 months. And I emphasize the importance of applying what they are learning.

It doesn’t matter how good sales training is, if it doesn’t impact with long lasting effects, it won’t make a discernible difference to a sales or service person’s performance.

But – and here comes the important part – the learner has to be willing to take the sales training out of the classroom. That means deliberately and strategically applying the principles of Consultative Selling every single day.

Persistence in Practicing Both Yoga & Sales

Most of the Yoga practitioners who attended the January session will be gone by April. Only the committed ones, the top performers (not that applies to Yoga) will stay the course. In sales it’s about performance, but we also have to be present, and breathing never hurts. Sustainable change however will only happen if we take sales training off of the “mat” – out of the classroom. It’s important to learn about and improve overcoming objections, handling stalls, cold calling and prospecting techniques, etc. I know many sales people who have read every single book ever written about sales. They follow thought leaders and read the newest articles. Some of them are top performers, but too many are just good “students”. And by that I mean, that they can theoretically talk about these concepts, but they can’t consistently and successfully apply them in real life.

And application is key to success. We see that in our sales training programs all the time. We ask participants to apply what they have learned. Their performance improvement is measured by their ability to transfer their knowledge to real live client interactions. Otherwise, spending time and money on training doesn’t make sense. It won’t have long lasting effects.

Whether it’s practicing Yoga or doing sales training, we will best succeed and achieve our goals when we are able to take our goals when we are able to take our practices out of the learning environment and know how to successfully apply them in the field.

Don’t Sell me This Pen

Posted on: October 17th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

    Sell Me This Pen – Really?

On occasion I’ve come across the “Sell Me This Pen” concept. The first time I actually heard somebody use the phrase was in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and since then I pay attention when I hear it. Just recently I read a post on LinkedIn explaining that apparently this challenge is part of some sales interviews. The article also stated that this sales interview question (and other similar questions which seem easy enough to answer) has been around for quite some. So, what do you?

Don’t Sell the Pen, Build a Relationship

When companies hire sales people who can answer such a question easily pointing out how great the pen is, they shouldn’t be surprised if they get practitioners who focus on selling the features of their offering rather than adding value to their clients. In my years consulting with Fortune 1000 companies, and small businesses alike, their sales people who live in the B2B world have always performed better when identifying client needs rather than simply selling their product or solution on its features and benefits. When sales people are trained to sell the features of their service/product, rather than being a resource to their clients, they forget about the needs and the business goals of their prospects. This can also lead to talking themselves out of a sale.

There Will Always Be a Cheaper Pen, Won’t There?

Another challenge with the concept of selling on features is that it commoditizes your offering. If you focus on your product/service without regard of your prospect’s situation, the next question will be about price and then (in most cases) the price shopping starts. Selling only on the features of a product/service means you are disregarding your audience’s true needs. And you might be forcing what could turn out to not be a good fit. But let’s assume it is a good fit. Remember, there will always be somebody who will offer the same or similar product/service cheaper.

Help Your Prospect Grow Their Business

In a consultative sales environment you’ll want to move away from a tactical approach of “selling” something, and instead become a trusted advisor. There are no long term prospects for a tactical approach. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being “sold to”!

If you start building a relationship instead, uncovering your prospect’s needs beyond the obvious, and providing a solution that is relevant to their business goals, you will not be as easily replaced by someone who just sells stuff – cheaper!

Once you focus on your prospect’s business needs and how you can help them grow their business, you will not only get their attention, you will also develop longer lasting relationships. Your sales will be more profitable. And as a result, your business will grow, too!

Less Talking & Selling, More Listening

Sales people who are in “selling” mode, simply don’t ask enough questions. And the questions they do ask do not motivate their prospects/clients to speak openly and freely about their true needs. With this approach, sales people are far too focused on the features and benefits of their offering rather than uncovering the needs of their prospect/client. You want to truly be a resource to your prospects, don’t you?

Slow down, listen, ask open-ended questions, and invite your prospect to open up about their business challenges. Then, determine if your offering is a good fit.

If it is, move ahead, make your case and focus on how you can add value.

If it’s not a good fit, explain why, leave a good impression, and perhaps refer a resource and move on to the next prospect. At least you were able to build an honest relationship. If the prospect’s situation changes in the future, they will certainly think of you as a good advisor.

Hire the Right People-Ask the Right Questions

Maybe “Sell Me a Pen” is a funky or challenging way to interview, but it doesn’t reflect what constitutes best practice in a solution-oriented or consultative selling environment. Look instead, when hiring, for sales people who are capable of building long-term relationships and providing value in the eyes of your customers.

It might seem easier to train sales people on using a script and selling a “pen”. But when you consider the costs of on-boarding, training, etc., you don’t want to have them leave and end up at your competition. Especially in industries where sales people are almost a commodity, only management can change the conversation.

I deeply believe selling cannot be about convincing people to buy something that they don’t need, but rather, adding value to your client by providing solutions to help them be more successful. In my opinion, smart managers looking for valuable sales people will be asking different questions, like “How can you help your client grow their business?” What do you think?

Don’t Drive Your Customers Nuts! Always Touch Base with A Purpose!

Posted on: July 17th, 2014 by Monika 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy in Sales Out the Window?!

Posted on: June 20th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

In sales, should courtesy be tossed out the window?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales Managers! Accountability Starts With You!

Posted on: May 22nd, 2014 by Monika No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Accountable

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Speak “Sales”?

Posted on: March 13th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

3 Reasons Why We Need a Common Sales Language

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

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

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

1) Define Your Terminology

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

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

2) Use Parameters to Refine Your Terminology

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

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

3) Be Creative, but Precise

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

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

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

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

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

 

We don’t have time for … (sales training)

Posted on: February 12th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Business Development Is A Priority, Is It Not?

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

No Sales Training = Status Quo, or does it?

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

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

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

Still No Time for Training? Think Again.

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

What is Your Business Growth Worth to You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Ways to Increase Sales Training Adoption: Tom Maloney

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

 

Are you selling Value or “Stuff”?

Posted on: January 16th, 2014 by Monika 1 Comment

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

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

Are you selling “Stuff” or Value?

How to Shift from Commodity Sales to Value Selling

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

Focus on Value Rather than Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freight is Freight, or Is It?

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

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

It’s About a Mindset Shift

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

Be Proud of Your Price Tag

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

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