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5 Ways to Make More Money in 2017

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

jingle

 

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

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

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

 

  • Time is Money

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

 

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

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

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

 

  • Planning is Everything

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

  • Research is KEY

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

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

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

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

 

  • People Buy from People

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

 

  • Sales is a Process

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Selling Technology

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

 

Cradlepoint Router

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

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

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

What Experiences Have You Had Buying A New Car?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Alternative – Show Me The VALUE!!

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

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

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

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

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

Our Technology is Better Than Yours

Posted on: April 29th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

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

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

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

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

Finding the Right Person to Target

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

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

Why Not Start Prospecting from the Top?

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

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

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

Lead with Value

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

Higher Pricing Not an Issue? How To Do That?

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

CRM could stand for – Come on – Retain Me

Posted on: September 25th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

Come on – Retain Me…….

…..should be the new acronym for CRM. Hardly any company that I am involved with as a consumer/customer actually uses their CRM, also known as Customer Relationship Management to have a relationship with me as a customer, unless the approach “don’t know who you really are but want to sell you stuff anyway”, falls into that category.

I see it over and over. Companies that have all my information, and I mean all my information (such as the company who manages my mortgage) – with the exception of my blood type – treat me like a prospect, NOT like a client.

My mortgage was sold (again!) to a company I had never heard of and they took the opportunity to (what else is new) sell me something. In this case it was a lower mortgage rate.

This would be a really intriguing concept if they would have actually reviewed my files, looked at my history and determined whether I was a good fit for such an offer.

Research is Essential – Even (or Especially) When You Call On an Existing Customer

But that would entail research and some upfront work, but instead the company decided to have sales people just dial for dollars and to call everybody who had been “switched” over to see if they were interested in a conversation.

It was very quickly apparent that the person who contacted me was using a list with probably thousands of names, rather than a CRM system that would indicate whether I was a good prospect or not.

Now, when it comes to cold calling on completely new prospects, it’s often very difficult to have high level conversations. The resources that we as sales people can use to determine a good fit are somehow limited. BUT when companies already have an existing client base and they are trying to up-sell, it should be mandatory to use all the information they have in their Customer Relationship Management system, shouldn’t it?

Not only do I find it a huge time-waster to speak with representatives of organizations who have all of my customer history and not use the information, it’s also insulting.

What Does It Say About Their Relationship to Me, The Customer?

It gives me the impression that I am just a number and they don’t really care.

If You Have a CRM System, Use It!

It feels like I have to write about this topic on a weekly basis – I’m thinking about my recent post about Salesforce.com – my experience with them NOT using their own product (!!) was a real shocker to me.

In the case of my mortgage company I don’t really have much choice, because I really don’t want to go through another refinancing scenario, whether it’s with this or another company. But, beware – all the other organizations who have my customer file (Cable, Wireless, Credit Cards, etc) – please do me the courtesy and Come on, Retain Me!

Not all Austrians yodel

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

Doing business and doing it well is challenging to begin with, but widening your company’s footprint and breaking into new markets is a whole different story. It’s almost like starting from scratch, but with a twist. It really is and that is where the biggest mistakes happen. Some companies think that they can just use their proven “template” and apply it to other markets.

I have worked in Europe for half of a lifetime and then another half here in the U.S. While there are some similarities in the way we do business, the differences are vast and ignoring them can have devastating effects.

To start with, Europe is not as uniform as the US. Don’t get me wrong, selling in the Midwest area of the US is vastly different than selling in the Tri-state, New York area. Having done both, it’s important to understand that in New York you literally have a minute (ever wonder how the “New York minute” came about?) to get your point across while in the Midwest people are a bit more patient.

Europe on the other hand not only has a large number of different countries with greatly different languages. Within those countries there are also social and linguistic nuances, and prejudices that are older than the history of the U.S. coupled with a desire to stay authentic.

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

Don’t Think You Can Go It Alone

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

Geography Alone Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

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

Try to Understand the Way Business is Done

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

English is Standard, but Watch out for Communication Style Differences

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

Be Patient, and then, Be Patient Again!

In the U.S., we are used to getting things done in a very timely manner. Either we like something and find that it makes sense or we don’t and then we are on to the next thing. In Europe people are not used to doing business that way. There is a lot more collaboration, consideration and weighing the facts. This will lead to the process taking longer, with more meetings and decision-making points. Very seldom will you walk away from a meeting with clear action points, but if you read the buying signs correctly (and culturally correctly as well) and you are patient, it will pay off. It might take a few more lunches, dinners or drinks, but then, who’s counting?

Understand Traditions and Heritage

Coming late to a meeting in Germany or Austria is really rather unacceptable. In Italy you will probably not leave a bad impression, only if you are late and a bad dresser, too! Don’t make the mistake to think that Germany, Austria and Switzerland have a lot in common just because we all speak German (at least in parts of Switzerland). While there are many similarities, the differences run deep and some animosities do as well. European countries are very proud of their heritage, their food and their traditions. When you make references, be sure that you really know what you are referring to. Austrians don’t yodel (as a matter of fact, most of us have never heard of, least of all watched “The Sound of Music”) and not all Germans are rigid.

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

Turbo Charge your Sales Efforts

Posted on: March 17th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

accelerate

 

Work with us for 8 – 12 weeks and we will help you accelerate your sales efforts, shorten the sales cycle and increase revenue.

Sales Managers:  Hold your Team Members accountable for their development

We will work with you and your team to:

• Focus on identifying & pre-qualifying new business opportunities with planned outcomes

• Apply core skills & concepts on-the-job in real-life situations through structured coaching applying a uniform sales process

• Provide on-going task- and goal-oriented professional consultative selling coaching

• Collaborate with Sales Management to support a common language & goal achievement

• Additional Accompanying Coaching Materials for Sales Management

• Coach to enhance and develop additional needed skills identified through our assessment and apply these on-the-job

• OPTIONALLY – Provide 24/7 self-directed access to our comprehensive web-based, e-Learning Modules plus additional materials & aids

Contact us at toma@consultativesales.net for more information.

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.

Intentions (not Resolutions) for 2015

Posted on: January 9th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

For the last couple of years I have set intentions rather than New Year’s resolutions. For one, intentions are “the thing that you plan to do or achieve: an aim or purpose” as opposed to a resolution which is “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. If we look at the standard definitions, it seems clear to me that resolutions are designed to set us up for failure. More often than not, we decide NOT to stick with something. And once we fall into that pattern, it’s easy to give up.

How many people do you know who had made New Year’s resolutions to give up smoking, or to lose weight only to end up falling back into the same habits a very short time after January 1?

So, in setting an intention – a plan, something to achieve – it makes the purpose more realistic and it helps us accomplish it. Baby steps, good intentions and making a plan – how does that sound?

When it comes to sales, here is a wish list of good intentions that would help me in my mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners.

Sales Culture

Contemplate a change in the culture of your business. Invite your employees to review your sales goals/plan. I mean, ALL of your employees – because in my book, everybody is in sales. If your receptionist is unfriendly and rude, at some point it will have an effect on a prospect or client. You might not hear about it, which is the worst case scenario, but trust me I have stopped doing business with companies whose employees were rude and I know many people who have done the same. By providing transparency and helping everybody within your organization understand that without clients they wouldn’t have a job, you will help them view prospects and clients in a different way.

Everybody Is In Sales

Everybody, and I mean everybody is in sales. Whether they are client facing or not. There is internal sales and external sales. How often do we need to “pitch” an idea to an internal audience to make sure that our clients are happy? So, while the research manager providing data for a project might not touch the client directly, they certainly have an impact on the success of the project. That is the culture that successful companies employ. They help their people communicate with each other, they provide technology to ensure proper workflow, but most importantly they encourage a culture of honesty and integrity and being customer-centered

Training Strategy

I hope that more companies will have firm training strategies. And I don’t say that for selfish reasons only, I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Better trained employees are more loyal, they represent your brand better and they contribute to the bottom line.  We see it over and over working with our clients. Employees who had been on the short list of the next in line to be fired turn into jewels for their company once they are trained properly. This is not to say that every employee is trainable and that nobody will ever get fired again, but it means that if you want to be an A player as a company you have to have a solid training strategy.

Honesty and Commitment

Let’s talk a little bit about those virtues and let’s bring them back. They are essential for every company to be successful. Without honesty there is no progress. You need to look at the areas of improvement to fix whatever is not working AND improve what is working to truly stand out.

Commitment (and I am a stickler for this), is another area that is a key ingredient to stand out from the crowd. Once you commit to something, you are putting a stake in the ground and then all you need to do is – well, just do it (Nike!). There is no shame in admitting that sometimes you might have made the wrong decision, but people respect leaders who are committed and good for their word.

So, let us start with intentions to do something, so we allow for small setbacks while intending to stay on course and to achieve our goals. In my world that is elevating the reputation of the sales profession and its practitioners. Why? Because somebody has to do it! And I invite all my readers to join me!

Wishing you a successful 2015 full of great intentions!

 

State of the “Sales” – Union – Naughty or Nice?

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the year is quickly winding down, I wanted to take a look at sales and business development as a practice in 2014 from my very personal perspective. Not that I believe that I am in a position to provide an all-encompassing view of the sales world, but being in the trenches every single day, helping my clients with their business growth, I’ve encountered some who are “naughty” and some “nice”! Especially as I do a lot of prospecting for my own company, as well as for some select clients.

Being in sales means that you put yourself out there in a way that is different from other business areas. You need to bring yourself into the process and without being able to build trust, it will be hard to be successful.

So, taking a look back at 2014, I’d like to share with you what I observed …

Social Selling – Be Personal

Social Selling has become a buzz word and very often misunderstood and/or misinterpreted. Below is the link to an interesting article in Forbes Magazine to that effect.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2014/09/12/the-science-of-social-selling/

Yes, Twitter and LinkedIn are essential when it comes to building relationships and finding decision makers. LinkedIn, in my humble opinion, more so than Twitter, but I let the experts judge that. The question will ultimately always be (and that holds true for every technology) – how to use it. Being a business owner I get messages on LinkedIn all the time, and inundated via Twitter, people pitching their business and telling me about their great services. Although they found me, they often fail to understand what I do and what my business offers. Their offerings are generic, often not relevant and therefore ignored by me. So, borderline Naughty, wouldn’t you agree?!

My approach with LinkedIn and Twitter (which I like to think falls in the “Nice” category) is to build a personal relationship first, look at similarities that I share with people and truly understand their role and their company. People buy from other people, as I have said before and I can’t say it often enough. If you are not building rapport and you are just using generic messages, blasting messages you might as well not use any of the social platforms because they could work against you. Irrelevant messaging is a bit insulting (Naughty?), because obviously the person reaching out hasn’t done their research.

Content Marketing – Be Relevant

Another buzz word. Great concept, but the same philosophy holds true. You need to be relevant and build a unique voice. If you hire people to just write on topics that you provide them with, it will be hard for your readers to find your content engaging (might be a bit Naughty?). When it comes to content marketing, it is important to put a stake in the ground and to create content that is relevant to your audiences. Be edgy, relevant and engaging. (Now that’s Nice!)

Business Courtesy – Treat Everybody with Respect

I have observed that business courtesy is at times taking a back seat. For some reason there are some people who must believe that with the presence of social media networks, they needn’t be as courteous as they used to be (or were they always Naughty?). It’s concerning and honestly a bit frustrating.

Especially, saying thank you and getting back to people has gotten out of style.

Sometimes, I’m inclined to believe that some decision makers treat vendors with less respect (now that’s Naughty, right?). We understand that we are all at times inundated with information. And we understand that decision makers have the buying power. But for vendors, it’s still Nice(!) to get a message when a buyer has decided to work with a competitor.

Commitment – Sticking to a Promise is Good Business

History shows that people who are committed will be more successful than those who are not. Commitment or the lack thereof showed up in many areas in 2014 from my perspective. Once you commit to something, you should stick with it (Nice!). As I’ve shared with many of my contacts, there is never a good time to have a baby! And as experience shows, there is never a good time to do sales training, or to implement a new system. But the rewards for going forward in all these cases are overwhelmingly positive. By dragging out decisions, you keep your company from moving forward on the one hand, but it also shows that you are not good for your word, which can have devastating effects on your reputation (real Naughty!). AND, if you change your mind while planning, just simply communicate it (definitely a Nice!).

Outlook for 2015 – Bright and Sunny

What I personally like about these developments is that the cream is rising to the top (real Nice!). More and more sales people are becoming experts, working hard at being better listeners and trusted advisors to their clients. I see more and more companies who are working at becoming better corporate citizens. They work on their commitment, to their employees, to their clients, to their vendors and to themselves (incredibly Nice!). They certainly have to – competition is fierce. And more and more people are making decisions based on integrity. I’m so impressed that all of our clients are successful with the desire to be Best-in-Class. They want their sales people to stand out from the crowd. So my mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners is one step closer to becoming a reality.

And so, with buckets full of optimism, I wish you all very Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year!

Accountability and Dropping Buckets of Ice Water?

Posted on: September 18th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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