Category Archives: sales management

You “Gotta” Believe, Or Else…

Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw Jr. was a Major League Baseball relief pitcher and the father of country music singer Tim McGraw.

He is likely best remembered for two things… recording the final out, via a strikeout, in the 1980 World Series, bringing the Philadelphia Phillies their first world championship… and his pithy quote referenced in the title above, “You Gotta Believe!”

Belief is a big factor in sales, sales management and, for that matter, any form of business or institutional leadership. We all must believe in ourselves, in our organizations, and that the job can be done.

Sales professionals must believe in the products and services they sell, and also that organizational leadership will support what they’re selling.

Sales managers and leaders must believe in the same things, and also in their team’s ability to do the job.

These beliefs are contagious.

But so too is the lack of belief!

Therefore, whether we are sales managers, team supervisors, group leaders, department heads or business owners, we should carefully question our dis-beliefs, because if we doubt our team’s ability to do the job; if we have second-thoughts about their dedication or loyalty to the cause; if we second-guess each move they make; if we have no faith in them, then it will show.

Even worse, it will show in their performance, because they will sense the doubt and become paralyzed by the fear of ridicule or worse; and it will filter-through to their families and friends, to our clients and prospects, and, ultimately, to the marketplace.

Our belief, or lack thereof, cannot be masked; so as leaders we might do well to consider our true beliefs and make a conscious effort to either develop an honest belief in our work force or develop a work force in-which we believe; and then we must find ways to express that belief each and every day.

The positive results might truly be surprising!

As the late Zig Ziglar once said, “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

Which Half of Your Sales Management Effort is Working?

John Wanamaker once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half!”

This is, of course, the reason frequency is such an important element of marketing.

It is also an important element of selling and of sales management. We must be diligent in our efforts to maintain a proactive and persistent posture when selling, and we must do the same when engaged in sales management; which many believe is simply a “higher level of selling.”

The key reason for this fact is that we can never be sure about which component of our effort is going to be effective at any specific time.

In other words, time spent coaching a Rep today may, in fact, pay off immediately or it may not pay off for a month or two; time spent presenting good reasons for a policy or procedure may not truly result in team buy-in on the spot, but might do so over time. Just like John Wanamaker, we just can’t be sure.

If we fail to interact with our customers, prospects or sales people with sufficient frequency, and if we fail to reaffirm the value associated with our products, services and our organizations, as well as our personal value, then we will most likely fail as sales people and sales managers.

This requires consistent, straightforward and strategic communication. Not only must we possess strong communication skills, but we must also (as the term implies) plan our approach. While many tend to think about communication in terms of “speaking,” the truly critical skills are:

  • Planning
  • Probing
  • Listening
  • Proactive style

As prudent sales managers, we must be aware of the critical role our communication plays in the day-to-day execution of our jobs, and the significant impact it has on the people we lead… how it can help us engage the team!

Thus the importance of the above-listed critical skills.

We should also be ever-aware of the importance of establishing and reaffirming our personal value — the value we provide to our sales team each and every day; the value we provide by helping them achieve success; the value we provide by helping them maintain focus on the right things; the value we provide by helping the close business; and the value we provide by continually reminding them that the job can be done and they can do it.

Sales Leaders – Do You Qualify?

Just as qualifying customers and prospects is a critical step in the selling process, it is also a necessary component of prudent sales management.

Many believe sales management consists of leadership, management and a higher level of selling — that is, sales managers must often sell to the sales force.

And in so doing, so too must they continually qualify and assess members of the sales force, who, in these instances, take on the role of “internal” customers.

To point out a few parallels, consider that successful sales people qualify and assess their customers and prospects during the early stages of the selling process. While the qualification can cover a wide range of issues, key areas involve:

  • Confirming interest, motivation and urgency levels, and that the overall needs are real; this step might also involve determining if the buyer is giving us serious consideration
  • Identifying priorities or special needs, such as quick delivery or modified payment terms, that can often make or break the sale
  • Confirming that each customer or prospect has the budget and wherewithal to acquire the products or services
  • Confirming the basis on which decisions will be made and how the evaluation process will work. This includes identifying decision makers as well as other stakeholders who might influence the process.
  • Assessing each buyer’s knowledge level with respect to product and service offerings and his or her ability to properly evaluate proposed solutions

Now let’s look at the similarities that exist in a sales management scenario.

Prior to setting sales strategies or assessing a sales person’s portfolio of pending business, a sales manager must qualify the overall situation.

The first step will involve a discussion on how thoroughly the sales person has qualified his or her customers / prospects.

Next, regardless of a sales person’s tenure, he or she must be motivated; and self-motivation can only go so far. The prudent sales manager always checks motivation levels, and is ready to provide the necessary incentive, guidance, or inspiration.

Of course people’s attitudes and motivational needs fluctuate on a regular basis; so as part of the ongoing qualification process, sales managers must also determine the best motivational strategy for each situation.

And speaking of attitude, does the sales person have confidence in our solution? Does he or she have the proper sense of urgency? Do we have their buy-in on company policies and procedures? The company mission?

It’s also important for sales managers to confirm the actual steps that have been taken to facilitate the sales process. Have our strategies been properly implemented? Similarly, sales managers must continually assess the team’s knowledge level. Do we have the skills to carry out sales plans? Are selling skills consistently applied?

Do we need additional product or systems training? Are we focused on benefits and solutions or do our presentations simply tout features?

Do we know how to qualify and assess our customers and prospects? How about qualifying and assessing our sales people on an ongoing basis too?

Selling Change

It’s all new!

The latest… new and improved!

It’s an updated, enhanced formula, just released!

Hot off the press, the newest style!

Less fat, more protein, superior quality, finer taste…

Easier to use, better, more comfortable, more efficient…

At one time or another all of these phrases have been used to sell products or services, and they all promote the same thing — change.

It would seem the marketplace must like change or marketers wouldn’t flaunt it; change, therefore, must be good — right?

What’s Good Can Be Bad — “If it ain’t broke…”
But of course change is not always perceived as being good.In their daily quest for new customers, sales people constantly struggle to overcome buyers’ comfort with the status-quo.  In organizations of all types people tend to look with fear, uncertainty, and doubt (the FUD factor!) at new policies and procedures, and look with deep concern at new compensation plans or updated benefits programs; and people at all levels regularly cringe at the suggestion that there might be a different or better way to do their jobs!

In the day-to-day real world, change most often promotes uncertainty, doubt, fear, resentment or loss, and this is not news.  The concept of “creative destruction” — an economic theory based on the premise that new ideas inevitably bring about the demise of older (more comfortable) ones — was popularized way back in the early nineteen hundreds by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter.

Yet without change comes stagnation and potential loss. Current-day examples include Xerox in copiers or Polaroid in instant photography, each experiencing significant declines in market share and profits as competitors introduced new and improved, lower-cost alternatives.

The cassette tape replaced the eight-track, but was then outdone by the compact disc, which was undercut by MP3 players… and the list can go on.

If we’re to learn from these examples, then we must accept the fact that change — either in the form of innovation, continuous improvement or both — is a critical component of growth and ongoing success. Without innovation and change we run the risk of losing our competitive position, or worse.

“Whatever made you successful in the past won’t in the future,” said the late Hewlett Packard CEO Lew Platt.

But if people tend to resist change as previously noted, how might managers or business owners best go about getting the team to accept it — to buy in? How can we help people more readily embrace improvement programs, try new protocols, accept new pricing models or generally believe in the up-side of change?

Simply stated, we must sell it!

Just like the sales and marketing experts who create the “new and improved” ad copy, slogans and selling presentations, we must sell the concept of change to our team members and sales force before trying to present or roll-out new policies, procedures, campaigns, programs or plans.

And just like any sales mission, this will require forethought and planning.

We might start by identifying how the team will benefit from a proposed change. What’s in it for them? What are the consequences of not changing? What will it cost? What opportunities might we lose?

What’s the competition doing?

The next step is to determine how to properly position a proposed change. Since we know there is a tendency toward defensiveness, it’s important to make people understand that they are not the problem.  In other words, a change in policy or approach need not mean that the team has been doing things the wrong way.  Rather, it means the world is changing and we must change too, lest we fall behind.

Finally, once the presentation is made and the new “whatever” is launched, there must be follow-up and assessment. Has everything worked as we’d hoped? Should we modify the new plan? Are there unforeseen consequences?  While we don’t want to send a message indicating we’re not resolved to the new program or approach, it is also a good idea to let everyone know we’re fair and open-minded — that at the end of the day we’re all on the same side.

Change may be unsettling, but without it our futures are at risk; and there are clearly ways to minimize the negative effects. It will require effort, planning and persistence, as behaviors and attitudes are not easily influenced.

Margaret Thatcher may have summed it up best when saying, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it!”

Sales Leadership

The culture of any given enterprise is most often a reflection of its leadership, and the sales force tends to mirror that culture when interacting with customers and prospects.

“I’ve never seen a company that was able to satisfy its customers that did not also satisfy its employees,” said Larry Bossidy former CEO Allied Signal, Inc. “Employees will treat your customers no better than you treat your employees.”

Others suggest that an organization tends to sell in a fashion that is directly related to how the organization buys — in other words, if the organization evaluates suppliers and makes buying decisions based primarily on price, then they also tend to sell at lower margins; and vice-versa.

Either way, as leaders, we have a profound impact on how our sales people interact with the marketplace each day, because the direct and implied messages they convey to our customers are based upon their impressions of our position on a range of issues — from how we evaluate and buy things, to how we talk about and treat customers.

Similarly, if the sales force is not enjoying high-levels of success in the marketplace, our cultural approach to improving their approach — i.e., building upon strengths versus focusing on weaknesses — can significantly impact their success or failure.

So what can we do to positively lead or impact the selling process?

Here are 5 steps you can take…

Read more…

Sales Management & the Rear-view Mirror…

rearviewIn a recent LinkedIn Pulse article, sales behavior and productivity expert Robert Roseberry shared data indicating that over 40% of all sales people fail to hit their annual goal.

The three primary reasons given:

  1. Ineffective use of CRM systems
  2. Poorly trained sales managers
  3. Too much focus on trailing indicators

Balancing the Rear View Mirror
While we regularly encounter all three of the root causes, it is the third culprit that is the most prevalent.

Given the proliferation of “data” it is easy for managers and business leaders to focus on metrics. But managers who place all or too much focus on analyzing past performance and then initiating improvement plans after-the-fact miss the opportunity to salvage what otherwise might be a sub-standard month, quarter or year!

Circumstances and competitive offerings within the marketplace are constantly changing. While the practice of reviewing past performance and using the data as part of a performance improvement plan is necessary, this “rear-view-mirror” approach can be costly in terms of lost opportunities if it encompasses ones entire sales management approach.

Instead, sales leaders can be much more effective if the develop and implement a managerial process that incorporates real-time awareness of performance and a systematic means of impacting that performance “before” its’ too late!

Read more…

Are You Interested?

interested3Whether you are a sales professional, sales manager, business executive or business owner, becoming “interested” is an important component of driving your organization’s sales and business development effort.

While great amounts of emphasis are more commonly placed on striving to become “interesting” in our interaction with others — that is, we focus on our “speaking points” and things we might say.

Instead, consider the concept of becoming more “interested” and how it might influence the various people involved.

Read the full article…

What’s Next in Communication?

Effective business communication is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.

While there are obviously many facets of communication, there is one simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will improve your business communication and success level significantly.

When asked to identify this habit, most people think it involves the conveyance of one’s message – either a smooth or powerful delivery, or a pleasant voice tone. Others suggest that the best communicators are good listeners, and some opine that the art of asking good questions is the key.

These are all very important elements of good communication, but none of these represents the habit to which we refer. The critical skill we have in mind is the one that helps you make things happen. It is the habit that brings about action! And, as promised, it is simple…

message_in_the_sand_18916It is the practice of specifically identifying and scheduling the next steps that are consequential to your communication — consequential to your discussions, your meetings, your teleconferences, your interviews, your sales calls, and so on — and doing so while the details of those interactions are fresh-in-the-minds of all parties.

If this seems too simplistic, please think again. Consider the fact that all business communication, regardless of its form, must be purposeful. We conduct meetings to share information on which people must act. We make sales calls so that people will buy. We run training sessions to help people perform better. We go on interviews with hopes of being hired; we conduct interviews with hopes of hiring. Each form of business communication has a purpose, and that purpose involves action.

So, for example, at the end of each sales call, what can we do to make something specific happen… the next step in the process? What can we say at the end of each staff meeting to make sure everyone is on-board with the conclusions drawn and that each participant is clear on his or her role in implementing agreed-upon solutions or processes? After meeting a new prospect at a networking event, is there a way to end our conversation that will result in a meaningful future discussion about a business relationship?

The answers to all of these questions may vary in content, but in principle they’re all the same – we must identify and then arrange the next steps, and we must do so definitively.

For instance, after meeting a good prospect at a trade show, it is far better to arrange a specific follow-up plan such as, “I’ll call you Monday at 3pm,” rather than a vague plan such as, “I’ll call you next week!”

“It has been nice meeting with you today, Ms. Buyer. Based on the information you’ve shared, I’ll put together a formal proposal for outfitting your facility with widgets. Can we schedule a brief meeting to review the proposal’s details? How about next Wednesday or Thursday…?”

“OK sales team, our goals for the upcoming week are clear. Along with our regular sales calls, each of us will make twenty-five additional courtesy calls to current customers because we’ve all agreed that retention levels must be improved. These calls will be documented in the newly-created section of our CRM program, and we’ll get together on Wednesday at 4pm to discuss progress – any questions?”

 

 

Storytelling Can Be a Solution for Many Managerial & Leadership Challenges

leadership4Business leaders and managers often express their frustration when their directives, presentations, or other messages don’t seem to be heard or understood — or heeded!

Many report having to reiterate the same policies and procedures, only to have them fall on deaf ears again and again.

If this sounds familiar, there is a simple solution for today’s leaders!

As presented in a recent newsletter, storytelling has proved to be the key leadership technique for increasing understanding, buy-in, and compliance.

For example, in a recent Forbes article, author and consultant Steve Denning suggests, “Rather than merely advocating and counter-advocating propositional arguments, which lead to more arguments, leaders establish credibility and authenticity through telling their stories…

“When they [leaders] believe deeply in them, their stories resonate, generating creativity, interaction and transformation.”

“Stories can change the way we think, act, and feel,” says the editorial team at mindtools.com.

“They can form the foundations of an entire workplace culture, and they have the power to break down barriers and turn bad situations around. Stories can capture our imaginations, illustrate our ideas, arouse our passions, and inspire us in a way that cold, hard facts often can’t.”

Research by Paul Smith, a consumer research executive, indicates the following as being among the most common reasons for the use of stories by business leaders:

  • Inspiring the organization
  • Setting a vision
  • Training or teaching important lessons
  • Defining culture and values
  • Garnering organizational buy-in
  • Leading change

Confidence Can Be Very Catchy… Or Not!

confidenceConfidence is a big factor in sales, sales management and, for that matter, any form of business or institutional leadership. We all must believe in ourselves, in our organization, and that the job can be done.

Sales professionals must believe in the products and services they sell, and also that organizational leadership will support what they’re selling.

Sales managers and leaders must believe in the same things, and also in their team’s ability to do the job.

These beliefs are contagious.

But so too is the “lack of belief!”

Therefore, whether we are sales managers, team supervisors, group leaders, department heads or business owners, we should carefully question our dis-beliefs, because if we doubt our team’s ability to do the job; if we have second-thoughts about their dedication or loyalty to the cause; if we second-guess each move they make; if we have no faith in them, then it will show.

Even worse, it will show in their performance because they will sense the doubt and become paralyzed by the fear of ridicule or worse; and it will filter-through to their families and friends, to our clients and prospects, and, ultimately, to the marketplace.

Read the full article…