Sales and Sales Management Blog

June 26, 2014

Why Producing Sales Managers No Longer Make Sense (If They Ever Did)

Although many companies believe they are maximizing dollars by requiring their frontline sales managers maintain and grow their own book of business, are they really getting the value they expect or are they costing themselves sales and money in the long run by trying to save a few bucks on a manager’s salary?

Let’s examine the duties that are expected from a producing sales manager as gleaned from several producing sales manager ads on CareerBuilder:
•    Recruiting and hiring salespeople–and often clerical staff
•    Training, coaching and mentoring those people
•    Resolving customer issues
•    Coordinating and working with other departments such as shipping, manufacturing, underwriting, finance, etc.
•    Monitoring the local market and competition and keeping management informed of market changes and opportunities
•    Creating and implementing a local sales and marketing plan
•    P&L responsibility for the local office or branch
•    Conduct sales and training meetings
•    Complete reports for management on a weekly, monthly and annual basis
•    Creating annual office or branch budget
•    Creating monthly and annual sales projections
•    Operating as company’s ambassador to the community by attending community events and maintaining a high visibility in the community
•    Other duties as assigned

And then the kicker:
•    Maintaining a high level of personal sales activity and personal production

The first dozen responsibilities listed above are management activities that are—or should be—critical to the growth and profitability of the company.  Most of these activities require someone with strong management, problem solving, and analytical skills.  To properly perform these activities, the individual must have a frame of reference to resolve customer issues, to develop sales and marketing plans, to maximize the return on assets, to properly analyze the local market and competition, and especially, to recruit, train and mentor salespeople.

Only the last item is a purely in-the-trenches sales activity related item.  Yet, as anyone who has been in sales understands, to meet that requirement of ‘maintain a high level of personal sales,” selling must be a full-time job.

The Requirements For The Job
Go further into the job description and you find the ‘requirements’ section, describing the background and experience this individual must have to be considered for the job.  Most typically, that description includes these items:
•    3-5 years direct industry sales experience
•    Proven high level of production, meeting or exceeding quota
•    Strong product knowledge
•    Proven industry contacts and book of business

What’s missing in the requirements for this position?  Of course, not a single word about management skills, aptitude, training or ability.

And how is this individual typically paid?  Usually some combination of base salary, commissions and overrides, or worse, overrides and commissions.

Does It Make Sense?
The above list of responsibilities was gathered from a number of job postings from a number of industries including retail, banking, insurance, securities, medical, software, chemical, consulting, and others.  Most of these job postings listed a majority of the above requirements including the personal production requirement.

Although traditional in many industries, does this combination of duties make sense?  If it does:
•    why are so many offices in these industries poorly run?
•    Why the constant harping by senior management for the offices to keep costs down?
•    Why complaints by marketing that leads aren’t being followed up?
•    Why the complaints by manufacturing and shipping that didn’t know certain things about various orders?
•    Why are commission checks so often wrong?
•    Why is the training and coaching in these companies so poor?
•    Why are so many poor hiring decisions made by the company’s sales managers?

The list could go on.

The reason of course is obvious.  The company didn’t hire a manager, they hired a salesperson to try to keep the herd in line and hopefully end up with the sales numbers the company wanted—and that sales manager is expected to make sure they do through his or her personal production.

Sales management as so often practiced today is hardly deserving of the term.  And despite the onus being placed on the sales manager by the company, the problem doesn’t lie with the sales manager.  Typically, the company got exactly what they wanted—a top salesperson willing to assume responsibility they haven’t been prepared for in exchange for a title.

Can Companies Afford to Continue This Way?
For most companies, selling is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge.  Competition is fierce, their products are most often indistinguishable from their competitor’s, their markets are becoming more fragmented, their prospects are better educated and more demanding than ever before.

Management as a sideline, although traditional in a great number of industries, is costing companies billions of dollars every year in lost opportunities, bad hires, poor local market decisions, lack of resource utilization and lost sales.

In a complex world with razor sharp competition and astute prospects who often know more than the people trying to sell to them, companies can no longer afford to use management positions as rewards for past production.  Frontline managers are increasingly becoming the focal point of a company’s success or failure.

Many companies have already begun to change their management philosophy and have eliminated the selling manager position and have replaced them with full-time, qualified, and trained managers.  To this end, they have instituted manager training and coaching programs hiring outside companies and coaches to work with their new and existing management staff.

Take Action Now
If you are in a producing manager role, hire a sales management coach to help you prepare for the realities of the changing environment you are entering.  Those items within your job description that haven’t been emphasized in the past are becoming increasingly important.

If you’re a senior manager, consider whether a producing manager is really worth the lost revenue and lost opportunities.  Your company’s selling environment isn’t going to get easier.

June 24, 2014

Guest Article: “TEAM SELLING–Lone Wolfs no longer reign supreme,” by Dr. Richard Ruff

Team selling – lone wolfs no longer reign supreme
by Richard Ruff

Team selling continues to be on the rise. We’ve heard this from clients and colleagues – and now from the research front. According to a recent Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study, the individual salesperson “no longer reigns supreme”.

As the CEB authors noted: “On the most effective sales teams, particularly B2B, the individual no longer reigns supreme. Strong sellers must not merely execute their day-to-day tasks well; they also must engage with their colleagues to marshal resources, wrangle involvement, and coordinate people’s capabilities.  They now rely on collective, even crowd-sourcing skills, in ways that weren’t possible just a few short years ago.”

Why is this team selling collaborative approach emerging to the forefront today? There are a number of reasons – let’s explore three.

  • Transformational Market Change.  First, several markets are undergoing a transformational change where the customer is demanding the salesperson brings a broader and deeper level of knowledge to the sales process.

A good case in point is the medical market where the Affordable Care Act plus other social and economic trends are transforming the health care landscape.  Hospitals now expect their suppliers to become partners to help them to deal with significant challenges driven by reduction in reimbursements and changes in their care delivery models.  This means to sell successfully the salesperson has to know more about knowledge areas such as: hospital economics, payment models, disease states and end-to-end supply chain costs.  This requires a team – a single sales person cannot do it alone.

  • Availability of Technology.  Today, salespeople have available easy-to-use and powerful CRM systems and software applications that allow them to share information and insights to a degree that was hard to image even 5 years ago.  Simply put, the technology enables salespeople to collaborate more effectively than ever before.  So, not only is there more of a need for team selling; there is also a way.
  • Sales Management Support.  The frontline sales manager has always been the pivotal job for achieving sales excellence.According to the CEB authors, today’s sales managers are operating differently.  Among market leaders sales managers expect and support their salespeople to leverage all the personnel resources that are available. They facilitate idea exchange across their sales teams, use collective brainstorming to figure out how to unstick stuck deals, and borrow effective approaches to talent management and sales rep development from peers in other areas of the business.  Sales managers are fostering relationships with personnel outside their divisions, such as: marketing, manufacturing, tech support, and customer service, as well as, with counterparts in other sales divisions when multiple divisions inside a company sell to the same customer.

Today customers expect sales people to know more and know it at a higher level of proficiency than in times past.  The higher up in the customer organization, the truer the proposition.  Senior level executives expect the seller to bring fresh perspectives to help them to frame their challenges and new insights to generative alternative solutions.  They want help to know more about what they don’t know – not product presentations.  If this trend continues, so will the shift to team selling.

Dr. Richard Ruff has spent the last thirty years designing and managing large-scale sales training projects for Fortune 1000 companies.  He is a co-founder of  Sales Horizons, a sales training company aimed at mid and small size companies. He has co-authored Managing Major Sales, a book about sales management, Parlez-Vous Business which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and Getting Partnering Right – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances.  You can find more of his work at his blog.

June 23, 2014

You Need to Know Your Sales History if You Want to Grow Your Sales Business–and Income

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:37 pm
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OK, so metrics are boring—but knowing your numbers is critical to your success.  Go ahead, read the article and then apply the math to your sales business.

Do you know what you have to do if you want to increase your income by 25%?  How about if you want to increase it 70%?

The obvious answer is to increase your production by 25 or 70%.

But is that the right answer?

Maybe–probably–not.

Rather than thinking in terms of increasing your production by 25 or 70%, ask yourself these questions:

What is your average annual commission per client?

Since most of us have different products and/or types of clients, break it down even further:

What is your average annual commission per client type A (say retail client)?
What is your average annual commission per client type B (wholesale)?

Or

What is your average annual commission per individual client?
What is your average annual commission per corporate client?

Or

What is your average annual commission per client buying service A?
What is your average annual commission per client buying service B?
What is your average annual commission per client buying service C?

Here’s a hypothetical example:

Mary sells widgets to both individuals and companies.  Over the past 3 years she has sold widgets to 300 individuals and 114 companies.

Her average commission for selling to an individual is $375.
Her average commission from a sale to a company is $1,050.

Last year her income was $107,050.

She wants to increase her income by 22% or $23,500 this year for a gross income of about $130,000.

Since she knows her production/commission numbers she knows exactly what she must do:

She needs to sell to an additional 28 individuals and 12 companies to reach her goal.

However, she could refocus her business by concentrating on business sales as each additional business sale would reduce the required additional individual sales by 2.8.

She could also take her numbers one step further and calculate what her averages have been over a shorter period of time such as 6 or 12 months.  When she does that she discovers that:

Over the past 12 months she has sold to 105 individuals with an average commission of $450 and 45 businesses with an average commission of $1300.

With these more accurate current numbers she knows in order to reach her goal she must sell to an additional 23 individuals and 10 new businesses.

So, that’s all she needs to do in order to reach the $130,000 income she wants for this year—simply make an additional 2 ¾ sales per month.

Again, she could refocus her business and concentrate more on corporate sales as each additional corporate sale would decrease the number of individual sales needed by almost 3 sales.

All the sudden that 20% increase doesn’t seem so difficult to accomplish because she knows exactly what it will take to get there.  The hocus pocus of pulling numbers out of thin air, the wondering of how in the world she can make an additional $30,000 is gone and replaced with knowledge—knowledge of what she has done in the past, what she is doing at the moment, and what it will really take to reach her goal.

Reaching your income and sales goals can be just as concrete and just as realistic as Mary’s goals were for her if you’ll take the time to do a little research and math.  These are crucial metrics of your business that you must know.

Don’t play a guessing game.  You can’t afford to operate in a vacuum.  Knowing your sales history is key to reaching your goals for our future business tends to replicate out past business unless we consciously break out of that pattern.  You need to know where you’ve been in order to get where you want to go.

June 13, 2014

Are You Failing Because You Fail to Persist?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:05 am
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Over the years I’ve spoken to thousands of sellers who want to change their behavior, their careers and their lives. There are certain traits that seem to be consistent with a great many sellers I speak with–they tend to be disorganized; the majority question their ability to perform up to the standards they have set for themselves; almost to a person they have no idea of how they intend to get where they want to go.  Almost all lack one of the most crucial traits of a mega-producer–persistence.

They try one technique or strategy a few times, and then move to the next.  They read a book, put into practice a little they have learned and when that doesn’t immediately produce results, they discard it and go on to something else.  They never allow themselves to learn, practice and develop a new skill because they aren’t immediately getting the results they want or expect.

Selling is both an art and a science.  Like anything else in life, it takes time to learn and develop new skills.  If we don’t allow ourselves the time and practice required to develop the skills required to become successful, we’ll never become successful.  The NFL, NBA, PGA, and other sporting associations are chock full of individuals who have spent their entire lives on the practice field preparing themselves for just a few minutes each week in the limelight.

Take an offensive lineman.  A guard has basically one job—keeps someone from the opposite team from having the opportunity to tackle the guy with the ball.  That’s it.  Just keep one man from tackling one other man.  Pretty simple, right?  If you have never played football or have never even seen it played and you walked onto a practice field for the first time it probably wouldn’t take more than five minutes to understand what the job of a guard is.  Heck, it wouldn’t take 30 seconds to understand the basic concept. Within an hour, you’d understand the most basic concepts of playing guard.  You’d know the stance, you’d know that you don’t move until the ball is snapped, you’d know that the guy on the other side of the ball that you are supposed to block is really, really big, and you’d know that your job on each play is only going to take 3 to 8 seconds to perform.  During the same time period you would have learned that there are different plays and that you do something a little different on each play.  Let’s assume your team has 10 basic plays.  Maybe it takes you another 2 hours to learn what it is you do on each of those 10 plays.

So, you’re ready for the game, right?  You’ve invested 3 hours.  You know your job is to keep that guy from tackling the guy on your team with who has the ball.  You know you have ten plays and you know whom to block on each of those 10 plays.  What else is there to learn?  You’re done.  Go take a shower and show up a couple of hours early on game day.

Maybe someone forgot to tell you that the other guy is going to do everything he can to keep you from blocking him.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that he won’t line up exactly where you want him on every play.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that he isn’t just going to stand there waiting for you to come block him.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that people don’t act the way you want them to act.  Maybe they forgot to tell you that what sounds easy isn’t necessarily easy.

If the average lineman in the NFL is 26 years old, and the average player has been playing football since age 7 or 8, then that guard has spent almost 20 years of his life learning to do one thing—keep one guy from tackling another guy.  That’s it.  And no matter how good he is, he still gets beat consistently.  He still misses blocking assignments.  He still has opposing players get around his blocks.  He still makes mental and physical mistakes.

Salespeople are in the same position as the guard above.  We have a simple job that requires a great deal of skill and practice.  The guard has spent his life learning not just the most basic parts of his job, but he has spent thousands of hours learning the techniques and strategies that will make him successful.  If all he needed was to learn the most basic concepts, he could pick up a book, read about what a guard does and then show up for the game.  There wouldn’t be any need to practice.  There wouldn’t be a need to hone his skills.  After all, what could be simpler than to have someone tell you to just keep that guy away from that that other guy?

But that is exactly what tens of thousands of salespeople do each and every day.  They read about a particular skill, go out and try it and it doesn’t work the way they want it to. They conclude it was all hype anyway and move on to something else.  Selling is a practiced skill, meaning persistence in practice, patience in application, and honing of abilities is necessary.

As we enter the second half of the year rededicate yourself to your personal training. Understand that what you learn must be practiced and perfected.  New skills take time to learn.  If you are perpetually moving from one sales concept to the next without having learned and practiced each, you’ll never improve your ability to perform your job.

Persistence is at the heart of perfecting any skill, sales skills are no exception.

June 10, 2014

How huge changes in Buying have impacted Selling – Webinar

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 9:28 am
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As part of our continuing goal of bringing the best speakers and ideas to you to help you develop as a salesperson, manager, and business executive, we’re excited to invite you to a dynamic, new webinar on Wednesday, June 18 at 11AM Pacific, 1PM Central, 2PM Eastern.

According to Daniel Pink, bestselling author of To Sell is Human, selling and buying has changed more in the last 5 years than it did in the last 100 years! Unfortunately, most salespeople have NOT adapted to these changes. What worked well just a few short years ago can be a liability today.

Our guest speaker is John Schumann, partner at Whetstone Group, a sales process improvement and training company. He is the co-author of several books, including Common Sense Selling, Sales Mastery, and The Monday Morning Sales Coach. He has trained 1000s of salespeople in over 17 countries.

John brings a new perspective to the old game of selling, one that will help you understand how these changes are affecting your everyday selling activities and how salespeople are now being manipulated.

You’ll walk away with some fresh ideas on how to begin making the transition to selling more effectively and selectively in 2014 and beyond…and learn a tool that you can put into practice immediately.

The webinar is complimentary. You won’t want to miss this.

Click here for more information and to reserve your spot now.

June 4, 2014

Announcing #SocSales Jam 2014: The Ultimate Social Sales Playbook (Live)

Want to master the art of social selling, but are wondering how to go about it?  During this hour long, multimedia Tweetchat, dozens of the world’s most influential social sales experts, including Jeb Blount, Jeffrey Gitomer, Jill Rowley, Dave Stein, Cheryl Burgess, Andy Paul, and many others will share their favorite social sales plays for achieving maximum reach, results and revenue.

Moderated by KiteDesk CRO Sean Burke, our expert panel will take the guesswork out of the equation so you can focus on dramatically boosting your sales .  Register today at http://bit.ly/SocSalesJam and get a pre-lease copy of the ebook The Ultimate Social Sales Playbook.

Some of the topics we’ll address are:

 How much time should be devoted to social media?

Has social media made traditional forms of prospecting such as cold calling obsolete?

What are some of the most effective social media prospecting strategies?

How can you effectively use the massive amount of social data available? 

Are there holes in the social selling toolbox?

Join us for an informative and practical hour.

 

 

April 7, 2014

Book Review: Hire Right, Higher Profits by Lee Salz

Book Review: Hire Right, Higher Profits by Lee Salz

ImageShould you only hire salespeople from within your industry?

What are the key qualifications for a salesperson to be successful selling for your company?

Do you spend as much time and effort when hiring a new salesperson as you do when looking at a new investment in a potentially revenue enhancing product or service?

In his newest book, Hire Right, Higher Profits: The Executive’s Guide to Building a World-Class Sales Force (CreateSpace:  2014), Lee Salz addresses these and many other hiring questions head-on—and provides the real world guidance and answers that are so badly needed by hiring executives in today’s marketplace.

Hire Right, Higher Profits is a highly detailed examination of the hiring practices most companies employ.  From the way employment ads are written to the unrealistic qualifications the ads demand the candidate have to the slipshod interview process itself to the inadequate or non-existent onboarding after the hire, Salz unfolds the reasons so many sales hires are a bust.

From his years of practice building sales teams Salz has come to the conclusion that:

“Five percent of all salespeople will Succeed under any circumstances “Five percent of all salespeople will Fail no matter what is done for them “Ninety percent of all salespeople fall into the LIMBO group where success or failure is determined by:

     “The strength of the match between them and their sales roles     
       and     
       The sophistication of the company’s new-hire development program—to help them       
       quicky and effectively use their skills and know-how in a new environment.”

In short, Salz’s formula for sales hire success is:

          “Identify candidates with the potential to succeed in specific sales roles                  
               + Offer skill-development programs to turn potential into reality                                                       
                                                 Higher Profits”

Hire Right, Higher Profits is laser focused on helping executives implement that formula with an emphasis that the hire must be geared to the highly defined specific sales role the salesperson will fill. 

The bulk of the book takes the hiring executive through the complete hiring process from examining and understanding in detail the required and desired attributes of the new sales hire to creating the job ad to the interview process to onboarding the new salesperson.  Salz examines the pros and cons of various sales job titles, whether or not to negotiate the compensation package, the candidate background check, analyzing a resume, and virtually every other aspect of the hiring and post-hiring process. 

Hire Right, Higher Profits is a practical, actionable guide to making quality hiring decisions, decisions that will enhance profitability and dramatically lower hiring costs and mistakes.

If you have any role in the hiring process of salespeople, do yourself and your company a huge favor and pick up a copy of Hire Right, Higher Profits.

 

 

 

March 6, 2014

Guest Article: “Sales Management: 4 Steps on How to Not Get Fired!” by Ken Thoreson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 4:29 pm
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4 Steps on How to Not Get Fired!”
by Ken Thoreson

On my flight to Seattle I was pondering what this week’s blog might contain; it occurred to me that in reflecting on the past year and looking forward a quick summary of a few basic actions sales leadership must take to succeed would be of value.

Step One: Build an active recruiting plan.  Most sales managers get fired for not hitting the desired sales goals, the issue is normally because they have a lack of salespeople selling their products/services!  You must know what is your average transaction value is vs your yearly or monthly sales objectives? The question you need to know is: “do you have enough salespeople on board to achieve your monthly number of required sales transactions? “ A sales manager must look out 90-120 days knowing your future potential revenue objectives and understand your manpower requirements.  Recruiting is sales leadership’s marketing campaign for sales leads. Build an ongoing program to ensure you have the right talent in place to exceed your goals.

Step Two:  Know your pipeline metrics. This is something I have written about before but it is what can bite the sales manager. You must know the accurate value of the pipeline 90-120 days out (depending upon your sales cycle). The question you must ask is: “do you have enough number of opportunities both in value and number of opportunities to achieve your upcoming monthly quota? If not, what can you do to ensure you build up the pipeline values so that you will have enough opportunities to achieve the monthly objective? It’s November, what is your February pipeline value? Do you have the necessary values to achieve February’s goals when it’s February first?

Step Three: Is your team trained?  Recently, at one of my new clients; my client, a technical team member and myself “listened in’ as two of their salespeople gave a demonstration to a major new client sales opportunity.  It became obvious to the president that the salespeople were not professional or even capable of handling the meeting. It was enlightening and a crucial step towards increasing the need for continued focus on sales training.  The sales team had been neglecting our recommendations as to improving their skill level, and now there will be an increased buy in by management and peer levels to focus on sales skills. 

  • ·              Make more sales calls  with your team,
  • ·               build in  a quarterly  salesperson skills  evaluation      process,
  • ·               increase more role playing in your sales training meetings
  • ·              Build a quarterly sales training programs 

Step Four: Improve your professional business acumen. 1) Make sure you read the local business sections in your local papers, the Wall Street Journal, business magazines/web sites,  2) read 3 business books a year and 3)  join a sales leadership  “peer group” of other sales managers to learn how others are increasing their leadership skills. This step will improve your ability to discuss the business trends of the day with prospects and your sales team, increase your stature within your management team and improve how you manage your team.

Follow these four steps and your odds of surviving the normal 18 month window that most sales leaders live under will improve.

Ken Thoreson is the president and founder of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com   Ken’s latest book is: “Recruiting a High Performance Sales Team”.

March 4, 2014

Are Your Sales Managers Sabotaging Your Company’s Sales Training Investment?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:43 am
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“We don’t spend money on outside sales training because it never seems to do much good.  In the past we’ve had training companies come in and work with our team but as soon as they leave it seems like our people are just back to doing what they were doing before.  Training is just a waste of our time and money.”

Many company leaders have the above attitude because their experience has been that the training they paid good money for didn’t change their sales team’s behavior—at least not for long.

After having that experience a couple of times it would seem rational to eliminate the outside training expense because obviously training companies can’t make the fundamental changes to people that they claim they can. 

The company leader assumes that the root of the issue lies with the training company and its inability to have a long term impact on the sales force.

But is that really the problem?

Certainly the issue could in fact lie with the company that provided the training.  But are a number of possible reasons apart from the company hired to perform the training for sales training failure–from treating sales training as an event instead of an ongoing behavior change process, to salespeople who view attending sales training sessions as torture, to the company’s failure to provide follow-up coaching for the sales team.  All of these are real issues that can negate any potential success you might experience from your investment in sales training.

There is another factor that is often the real cause for the failure of the training—intentional or unintentional sabotage by the sales team management.

Are your sales managers trying to take the edge off their charges having to go to training by reassuring them, “yes, you have to go to the training, but don’t worry; just go and when you get back, sell the way you’ve always sold?” 

Maybe they don’t believe in the training and are intentionally training their team members in different processes and tactics? 

Possibly some sales managers don’t want to invest the time and energy in learning new strategies and tactics themselves and consequently don’t care whether their folks adopt the training.

If you fail to get full buy-in from your sales management team to the specific training you are presenting, you will not have comprehensive and universal implementation of the training. 

Your frontline sales managers who work with their team members have more influence on how your salespeople sell than anyone else—more than senior executives, more than middle sales management, more than the training department, more than HR, more than the expensive sales trainers you hire.

If they don’t believe, the salespeople won’t believe. 

If they don’t reinforce the messages, the strategies, and the tactics, those occasional training sessions will be nothing more than expensive exercises in futility.

How do you get all of your sales managers on the same page?

Before you ever put a salesperson in a training workshop or seminar, each and every manager must have gone through the management version of the training.  Each manager must understand what the company’s comprehensive, unified sales process is and how the particular training that is scheduled fits in the big picture; what short and long-term results are to be expected; what their job is in reinforcing and coaching the training; and what criteria will be used to determine the success or failure of the training.

Most of all, each manager must believe in the process and strategy.  .

Whether the training is presented by an in-house trainer or by a professional trainer brought in from outside, each segment of training should consist of a management segment designed to gain manager buy-in and to give them the tools and knowledge they will need to coach sellers once they are back at the office and a segment for salespeople that is attended by their managers.

And although the initial cost of training in terms of both time and money will increase, the long-term result will be reduced waste of training dollars and increased sales.  That wished for unified sales process will begin to become a reality because the biggest determent to success has been turned into the biggest promoter of success.

February 27, 2014

The Single Biggest Difference Between Highly Successful Sellers and Also Rans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:43 pm
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As a seller, sales leader, business owner, and sales consultant I’ve seen and worked with thousands of sellers from dozens of industries and from all sales career stages.  I’ve seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst and all in-between.   I’ve seen sellers who failed miserably as well as those making well into the seven or even eight figures.

Consistently the single biggest difference I have seen between the successful sellers and the also rans is prospecting. 

What is so different about prospecting that one group makes a ton of sales and the rest fail or just make a living?

One group prospects, the other group simply thinks they prospect.

The successful group is getting in front of great prospects and making sales while the other group is baffled by their lack of sales success because they insist that they are ‘always prospecting.’

Almost all in the second group can produce lists of prospects , some of which they’ve called; they can show where they’ve sent out a ton of letters and emails; they can give receipts for advertising they’ve bought; they can produce filers that they’ve plastered all over town.

Most have been busy; there is little doubt about that.  The problem is that although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been doing ‘things’—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, constructing call lists–and on occasion actually making a few phone calls.  Like many salespeople, they’ve confused doing preparatory and busy work getting ready to prospect with the activity of prospecting.

Although they have spent a great deal of time doing busy work, they have spent very little time actually connecting with and getting in front of decision makers.  They think they are always prospecting, but in reality they find ways not to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity engaged in isn’t the activity that would produce business; instead, it is the activity that made them feel good, that made them feel productive, allowed them to convince themselves that they were being extremely active.

We salespeople tend to focus on activity—after all, activity is what gets us in the door, gets us the business we must have in order to succeed.  But activity alone is fruitless.  Activity for activity’s sake is just as sure a way to failure as inactivity.

The salespeople in the second group above believed they were highly productive because they felt productive.

Prospecting isn’t preparing to prospect; it isn’t finding easy ways to feel like you’re getting your message out; and it isn’t doing busy work.  Nor is it easy but very low return lead generation such as plastering the Wal-Mart parking lot with fliers or sending out thousands of SPAM emails.  Those may be easy, non-threatening activities, but they are also career killers.

Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting with a decision maker and that requires a physical connection.

If you cold call, that means being on the phone, not getting ready to get on the phone. 

If you network, it means actually being in front of and meeting prospects or garnering introductions to prospects from referral partners, not researching events or even spending time at non-qualified events where you’ll meet few, if any, prospects. 

It means connecting with quality prospects through highly targeted and personal letter and email communications, not sending out thousands of pieces of SPAM hoping that someone will read and respond. 

It means creating a highly targeted and well researched direct mail campaign, not just sending letters to a purchased list.

Yet even in the above prospecting activities, the prep and research time is NOT prospecting time and should be done only during nonproductive prospecting hours.

Investing time and energy in the wrong activities has killed as many sales careers as inactivity has.  As salespeople we have three very basic duties—finding and connecting with quality prospects, working with those prospects to help them satisfy needs or wants and to solve real issues, and insuring that they are taken care of during and after the sale.  Everything else is busy work and busy work doesn’t make a sale, doesn’t generate income, and doesn’t move us toward our sales or income goals.

Before you engage in any activity consider whether that activity is income producing or not.  If it isn’t directly producing income, does it really need to be done?  If not, move on to an activity that will directly lead to a sale

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