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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.

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!

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.

Sales Prospecting: How Many Times Is Too Many?

Posted on: June 18th, 2015 by Monika 1 Comment

Very often I get the question from clients and sales people as to how many times one should reach out to a prospect before being viewed as a nuisance. The answer often surprises them.

Until They Respond!

 In a consultative sales environment, a prospect is a prospect as long as they don’t tell you to never contact them again, which rarely happens when you adhere to certain rules.

I still do high level prospecting for a select group of clients and have been very successful engaging C-Level and mid management decision makers in meaningful conversations.

Add Value

The key to successful prospecting is to add value and not to sell. Nobody wants to be sold to and once people think that the purpose of an outreach is to get them to buy something, the conversation is already off to a bad start.

Prospects don’t get upset when you target them frequently. They get upset when you are irrelevant, when you don’t know their business and when you pitch them.

Research

Being a business owner I get sales calls all the time and 9 out of 10 are not up to snuff. You can tell when someone is dialing for dollars: e.g. the sales person didn’t look up my company, doesn’t know what I do, and then pitches a service that is not a good fit for my business. And in addition, sometimes they are rude or inconsiderate.

But once in a blue moon there is this sales person who actually took the time to identify what my needs might be. That in combination with courtesy leads to a good first conversation and even if I am not in a position to buy immediately, I don’t mind them staying in touch with me as long as they add value.

Be Relevant & Timely

Every sensible business person knows that they will be called on by other companies that provide services. Nobody in business will hold that against you. What they will hold against you is offering a service that doesn’t meet their needs and then trying to push a sale where there is no fit.

You’re busy, I’m busy – so, keep in mind that people are busy. Just because they don’t respond right away doesn’t mean that they are not interested. They might be traveling, they might have pressing issues to deal with that are more important than responding to your outreach.

My Motto: Don’t give up, be relevant and stay on message.

Persistence Pays Off

Many, many times I have gotten replies from prospects acknowledging and thanking me for my persistence. People generally appreciate a professional outreach and sales people who are determined. It is expected that a good sales person will stay on course and try to engage. What is NOT expected and dreaded are messages that are about your product or service, rather than the value it could bring to their business.

For example, if somebody calls me telling me that they can provide leads for my business (which happens almost on a daily basis) I will probably not respond because the message seems very broad. If they however look at my client list and tell me that they are experts in the logistics or technology field (an industry that I target), they might get my attention.

Let Your Prospects Opt Out

Include an “opt out” message in your voice or email. Tell your prospect that you understand if they don’t have time, or of there is no interest and that they should call you back if that’s the case. This way you give them a graceful way out and very often (you will be surprised), the prospect will get back to you, one way or another. Many times I get a response from a prospect, almost apologizing for the lack of response.

In closing, if you are professional and you do your research, your response rate will increase. As long as you stay on message and you are courteous, your outreach will be appreciated. I share this with you based on years of experience. In my world, the average sales cycle is at least 6 months up to a couple of years. If I were to give up easily, my business wouldn’t survive.

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.

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.

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?”