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When we get married or make a long-term commitment, one thing that is inevitable is that there will be rough times. Some people are lucky and they only face minor obstacles, others will have to deal with a full-blown catastrophe, such as losing a home or even worse, a child.

Research has shown that couples don’t separate because their life is in shambles, they separate because they don’t know how to handle these difficult situations. Blame is one ingredient that doesn’t improve the circumstances and things often spiral out of control.

It was a long time coming

The same holds true for this Corona Virus crisis. Everybody who has read credible publications or watched trustworthy news over the last years must have heard that a Pandemic was looming. I can’t remember a time in the last decade where there wasn’t a potential danger of an outbreak of the magnitude that we are experiencing right now, but then it didn’t happen and we sighed with relief and moved on with our lives.

Although we know that at any time there is a worldwide pandemic that could linger, what have we done to prepare? Not a lot as anybody can see. We are reacting, but we are not executing plans that were developed prior to this outbreak. And I am not even talking about the fact that there don’t seem to be enough test kits or face masks available, that is almost a rookie mistake.

Reaction vs. Preparation can lead to Panic

What happens when there is a lack of preparation is a feeling overwhelm and panic. The financial fallout from this crisis could be devastating and it could have been mitigated if we had a solid crisis plan in place.

Events are being canceled and schools are considering to home-school children. When I watched the local news the other day, they were referring to the way some countries are now engaging with students as E-Learning. They don’t even have the terminology right. It’s not E-Learning, it’s long-distance learning. I know that because I own a company that has E-Learning capability with a technology platform and a curriculum that was developed so sales people who are disbursed all over the world can all learn at the same pace. On the other hand, we now have teachers who are instructing their students over the internet without the ability to truly collaborate or being able to tap into an E-Learning platform.

Crisis Management

And all of this happens in the 21st century with so many technology solutions available. We scramble, we panic and we react and it’s really scary to watch how the news develop and there is no clear path to success outlined.

For governments this should be a wake-up call to fund departments to be prepared. We have access to the data and we know that the next Hurricane, Flood or even Pandemic will be coming. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when and how often.

Shareholders should keep companies accountable and require a crisis preparedness plan to be in place. There are many companies who offer crisis management, including training, incident planning and response tools.

Even if we weather this emergency in a way where we contain it (fingers crossed) the question still remains how well prepared we are for the next crisis.

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11 Feb

People like stories….

by Monika

From a very early age on I was fascinated by fairy tales and stories. Storytelling is essential in a consultative sales environment. It helps you connect with your prospects and it is a great way to add value rather than pushing a feature.

In a consultative B2B environment we are often faced with a situation where we are selling the invisible. Often, there is no physical product we can showcase when we are prospecting on the phone and we are challenged to connect with a prospect in a short period of time. It is therefore imperative to build am emotional connection and that can only happen when we tell a story.

Telling stories and sharing best practices gives us an opportunity to communicate a business objective in a personal way where people can relate.

Remember 1001 nights?

When I was a kid I loved the idea of people gathering in a tent or square and listening to stories. It’s fairy tales and stories that shape our thinking, they trigger our imagination and fuel our creativity. As adults it’s not that different, we are always drawn to stories where we feel that something speaks to us directly.

When I started out in sales, I had come from a public relations/marketing background with no credentials in sales so I decided to do what I liked best – listening to stories. I researched case studies and told my prospects about the success that other companies had when using our service. It worked!

Why?

Because people like to listen to stories, they can relate to them. Product features are boring to people unless they can use them to their advantage. Nobody wants to listen to you bragging about your company, your service, how good you are, etc.

What people are interested in is what your service can do for them and how it will help their business.

If you don’t have something to show, share a story

Even, if you have something to show you should tell a story, but it’s especially important in a B2B environment where you often don’t have a product to show and you need to rely on anecdotes to get people interested, especially when you first engage with a prospect. The key question is “What do the clients do with the service you provide?”

What better way to explain than sharing success stories.

Why is it easier to sell a story than a product or service?

Rather than selling a service, focus on the value it brings to the client and the human experience. Instead of selling a service that is “better”, offer a solution that helps increase efficiencies. Once we are able to tap into somebody’s emotion, it’s a lot easier to connect. Never forget that it is human beings you are targeting. Although you are trying to sell them something, you are also an advisor, a consultant in the true sense, a resource to help them make the right decision.

When telling stories, it is important that you own them and make them yours. Be personal, just like a dinner conversation. First, listen to your prospects, then choose a case study/story that you think will resonate with their needs and I can assure you that your prospects will listen. Because, everybody likes stories…

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Sales people often believe that prospects will remember their emails or voice mails, when in actuality we are really not that important.

 It’s a crowded business environment and we get inundated with information every day, or every waking hour for that matter.

Therefore, sales messages should be crafted a little bit like ads.

Sales messages shouldn’t sound salesy, but they need to be memorable. Just like in advertising, you want to make sure that you penetrate a person’s mind with your communication. And by penetrate I don’t mean that you aimlessly repeat the same thing (which some sales people do) but you effectively craft a message that will resonate with your target audience.

The best ads are the ones where we not only remember the message, but we also connect the message to a brand. Geico anybody?

This can only be accomplished when we weave repetition into our outreach.

In other words, you want to say the same thing over and over, using slightly different versions, changing the order a bit.

Let me give you an example. Let’s paint the scenario where you want to get the attention of a COO (Chief Operation Officer) of a mid-size manufacturing company. Your goal is to get a response from that person to either, book a meeting with him/her or get a referral to the person who is responsible for that area.

You want to craft an email/phone outreach cadence of five touchpoints where you use the value proposition over and over, using slightly different words.

For example, you talk about your solution and how it can create efficiencies to help save time and money and that’s the message you want to come back to time and time again. Everything else you say is basically a filler. What you want them to remember is “saving time and money by creating efficiencies” using your solution.

But the key is not only repetition, but also to have no more than 10 business days between the first and the fifth outreach. You can only tap into people’s memory when the intervals between each outreach are short.

Again, we all get inundated with information and for somebody to remember you and the message you are trying to communicate, it is important to stick to this recipe.

Short Time Frame + Repetition + Perseverance

Also, many sales people are hung up on the fact that their prospects should remember the company they represent. Unless you work for IBM, SAP or any of the other known brands, people generally don’t care. What they care about is “What’s in for me?”. The key is not for them to remember the company you represent, but how you can help them solve a business problem.

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I have worked in many industries, consulted with even more and one thing I know for sure. Certain skill sets come in isolation and they can’t really be combined. Let’s take Market Research as an example. If you are looking for a sales person to sell market research/analysis, then you have to choose one skill set over the other.

Please don’t look for Unicorns! Having listened to many of my former colleagues looking for new opportunities, I realized that most job requirements are quite unrealistic. Of course, hiring managers take their orders from the person who is looking to fill the job, but shouldn’t there be some sanity check?

Can research people sell?

Sales people are good at selling and developing business and research people are good at analysis. Very seldom will you find somebody who can do both well.

There will always be an aspect of the qualifications that will not be met. The key is to identify what is most important to the person/company who is hiring.

If they are looking for growth, then hire somebody with a sales/business development background who understands market research/data/media. They shouldn’t have to be able to do the analysis themselves, they just need to understand the concept.

However, if you are looking for a researcher or somebody who does analysis, then look for a person with that skill set. If this person happens to have an aptitude for business growth, then maybe they can be trained to become a good seller. They will probably never be a super star, but their performance will be decent.

Unicorns can stunt a company’s growth

Looking for a unicorn can actually stunt growth. It happens all the time. I have seen it more times than I can remember.

I used to work for a big market research firm, years and years ago and they realized after a couple of years of modest revenue growth that they have to split responsibilities. Best decision they ever made.

They hired people with a strong sales acumen to sell and left the research to the people who love analyzing data.

Now, when it comes to upselling, that’s a different story. Some researchers, after having built a relationship with their clients are able to upsell, but also not all the time. It is best to always involve somebody with a sales/business development mind to meetings when it comes to growing accounts.

Not every sales person is comfortable asking for money, so trust me when I say that I have yet to meet a research person being at ease when they are tasked to introduce new services.

What about LeBron James?

To use an analogy (I love them!) – we wouldn’t ask LeBron James to be a soccer champion as well. So, why are we having these lofty asks from people who are not celebrated athletes?

And don’t get me wrong. Some people can do it all, but it’s a small percentage and it’s almost impossible to find them, because they often start their own companies.

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31 Oct

This is too expensive!

by Monika

How many times have you heard somebody say this? Not only in sales, but in every-day situations.


From a sales perspective, there is actually no such thing as “too expensive”. The meaning of “too expensive” is always “it’s not valuable to me”.

Just think about it. We can all buy, sell, choose something at a lower price tag, but what are the consequences of the lower price? Do we actually consider that when choosing a product, a service or a person for that matter?

When companies hire employees, do they actually evaluate what that person can bring to the table, or do they just look at a category that fits that job description and make an offer accordingly? I think we all know the answer to that.

Do we consider the long-term consequences?

When a person chooses a product or service, do they consider what might happen if they go with the provider that has the best price tag? Some people do, but most people don’t.

Cheaper products and services sometimes cost way more than a solution that lasts longer and is future proof.

We have also all worked with the people who are highly paid and don’t bring value and the ones who are talented and efficient, but underpaid.

One of our clients manufactures and sells modems to prevent internet outages, certainly a product that is essential these days to keep businesses up and running. Their fiercest competitors are not other companies that offer a similar model, but cheap consumer devices that you and I would use for our homes.

What is the value of anything?

Imagine, you are a company where the cash registers depend on a reliable internet connection and this company uses the same product that you and I use for our home offices. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s the truth.

I experienced it first-hand a couple of years ago when I wanted to buy something at a Dunkin Donuts kiosk at JFK airport and the cash register wouldn’t open up. In an airport! where time is of the essence. Maybe management didn’t consider what the loss of revenue would cost them and I am not even touching on the bad customer experience.

There is always a cheaper solution

Everything comes with a price tag, some higher some lower. And some products are competitively priced but when you choose a new solution, a new hire or a new product always consider the long-term value vs. the short time savings.

And for us sales people, we need to make sure that people understand the value of our solution. Leading with value is key, so price discussions don’t come up in the first couple of minutes, but at a point when the decision to purchase is being made.

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Millennials are not driven is  phrase that I hear quite often in management meetings. Managers complaining about Millennials and their inability to follow directions, complete tasks, take orders, you name it!

Millennials also known as Generation Y or the Net Generation, are the demographic cohort that directly follows Generation X. I have two sons. One is a Generation X and my younger son is a Millennial. What I find so interesting is that when my older son came to age everybody was bitching about Generation X and now the Gen Xers are finding fault in their successors.

Personally, I only know Millennials who are driven, curious and creative, but I do understand that my view is not a statistical sample. I do wonder though if the “pampered” Millennials were raised by people who were a bit misguided. I really don’t want to point fingers here but I find it hard to believe that an entire generation is viewed as difficult to manage.

Here is the situation though. In the coming decade we will all have to learn to manage the Millennial generation, otherwise we will be in trouble. So, here is the challenge. What do we “older” people have to do in order to successfully guide, nurture and support those Millennials so the end result is success?

WHO ARE THOSE MILLENNIALS?

A Google search showed me the following result:

Nurtured and pampered by parents who didn’t want to make the mistakes of the previous generation, millennials are confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented. They also have high expectations of their employers, tend to seek new challenges at work, and aren’t afraid to question authority.

Maybe, what we are struggling with is that they are not afraid to ask questions, that they challenge authority and that they are achievement oriented, rather than willing to play the corporate political game to be successful. Most business environments that I am exposed to still operate on a “If you like me, I will promote you” basis and criticism or challenging the status quo is certainly not something that is part of the play book.

Could the resistance of Millennials to comply have something to do with the fact that these kids were pampered? Possibly. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what the reason is. The fact is that we will need to adapt to it.

MAKE IT PLAYFUL AND FUN

In my sales training sessions with Millennials I found them to be curious, attentive and playful. That’s why I always make sure that part of the training involves games and rewards. If I want sales training with Millennials to be successful, it is my responsibility to adjust the content accordingly.

I think part of the reason that Millennials are different is that these “kids” hear about wildfires and floods every day. They are exposed to a world where the traditional media is surpassed by social media presence and the validity and authenticity of both is constantly questioned. Their social security payments are in question, in other words all the things we could rely on are ambiguous concepts for them. It’s unsettling for all people, but especially for those who are at an adult age and know that their children and grandchildren will not have the same living conditions as them and they doubt that the world will be a better place.

THEIR FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN

Yes, I know these doubts and fears were present for all generations. My parents had to struggle through World War II, the Baby Boomers in the US had to live through the Vietnam war, but now the challenges are bigger the consequences graver. While our grandparents and parents always had the hope that there might be light at the end of the tunnel, the outlook for this generation is dark. A planet that is warming up cannot be fixed in a couple of years by a Marshall Plan.

These Millennials are aware of their situation and plight. So, who are we to criticize them for asking questions, challenging the status quo and being confident.

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials In general, are better educated – a factor tied to employment and financial well-being – but there is a sharp divide between the economic fortunes of those who have a college education and those who don’t.

WE NEED TO ADAPT AND CHANGE OUR APPROACH

Let’s all put our heads together to find ways to help this generation be successful. Maybe we should challenge the status quo and find ways to coach, guide and manage them effectively. They are all we’ve got if we want to build a sustaining future for our companies and for our planet.

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In the past years, sales enablement has become an instrumental business practice within organizations. Pretty much every company with more than 500 employees and a sizable sales department has either a Sales Enablement function or a whole department dedicated to that discipline.

How is Sales Enablement defined?

When I googled the term Sales Enablement, the following definition showed:

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help sales people sell more effectively. The foundation of sales enablement is to provide sales people with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process.”

or

Sales enablement is the strategic, ongoing process of equipping sales teams with the content, guidance, and training they need to effectively engage buyers. Sales enablement analytics provide marketing and sales teams with data-driven insights to optimize their business and drive revenue.

This is a broad and wide representation and it looks that every organization defines sales enablement differently.

What are the Qualifications for a Sales Enablement job?

While some sales enablement jobs require candidates to provide metrics with qualifications such as “data analysis and strategic recommendations”, others ask for “delivery of learning programs, liaison between Release Management”.

So, basically, sales enablement could be anything that helps sales people be successful in their roles.

When I conducted a quick survey with my professional network about their view on sales enablement, this is what I received:

  • Sales Enablement is all about filling the gap between sales strategies and implementation. 
  • In the context of solutions and systems / Industry 4.0 / IoT sales enablement means a cultural change: 
  • Training, Continued Education, and Resources provided to ensure sales reps are more efficient and effective in their sales process

And, what about Marketing?

When I asked the question about the connection between sales enablement and marketing and whether this should be part of the equation, there was silence.

Not that I was surprised, but it gave me food for thought. Why would sales enablement not include a connection to marketing, linking the gap. Most organizations that I have had access to don’t have a function that connects sales and marketing, which leads to what I refer to as a marketing effectiveness void.

What I mean by that is that often marketing works in isolation, communicating updates that are not always conveyed to sales or promoting events, where the sales department is not involved in neither the branding, creation or the attendee list.

What is the difference between Sales Enablement and Sales Operations?

When I asked Google (again) between the difference of Sales Enablement and Sales Operations, it showed that “Sales operations will interact with Marketing, but their primary focus is Sales”. I found this especially amusing because none of the Sales Operations jobs I researched required the interaction with marketing.

So, where do we find people who can connect the two?

I’m sure that there are companies that have a successful relationship established between sales and marketing, but usually those organizations are smaller and the leadership is driven by a founder.

Once companies grow, the gap between sales and marketing seems to grow wider and deeper.

So, here is my pledge. Either, we create a job discipline that acts as the liaison between sales and marketing (creative titles are welcome!), or we could add that responsibility to the sales enablement team.

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In my work, helping sales people developing qualified leads, I often come across a misconception about email communication. Email messages are still a very effective tool to get responses, but they need to be crafted carefully. This hold especially true since the rise of content marketing. Sales people have become more “salesy” in the way they engage with people and then wonder why they don’t get the responses they are hoping for.

Every interaction with our prospects and clients is an opportunity to connect, leave an impression and communicate value. If we treat email like a mass communication vehicle, it will be perceived as such.

Emails are the new Snail Mail

Just remember when we used to get letters, not flyers but actual letters. We would sit down, read them and then take an action, or not.

Emails are not that different. It’s the “new letter” where we want to be as careful in the way we write, phrase and format, being mindful of grammar and spelling and making sure that we are heard.

Get attention with your Subject Line

First off, there is the subject line. It needs to draw you in and it needs to be eye catching, but not to the point of sounding like a commercial. One of my favorite subject lines is “Discussion on (fill in blank). Whether it’s a Discussion on Sales Training, or a Discussion on Internet Connectivity, it gives the person on the other side of the screen an idea what you are all about.

Focus on the Value

Then there is the introduction. You want to get to the point quickly, focusing on the value that you would bring to the table, should they partner with you. In order to communicate the value you need to research your audiences carefully, because value means different things to different people. For example, a Finance Person will be interested in a product/solution that can save them money, while an Operations Person will be open to hearing about efficiencies.

What’s your call To Action?

And then you want to incorporate a call to action, such as “I will call you again tomorrow” to let them know that you are serious. That means however, that you will actually have to call them the next day, otherwise you will lose credibility.

All of these areas need time and research to develop. Good emails don’t grow on trees and they are not whipped up in a minute or two.

Remember, people buy from people and if we forget that it’s people who will be reading our correspondence (no matter what format), we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get responses.

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Emails are the New Snail Mail

In my work, helping sales people developing qualified leads, I often come across a misconception about email communication. This hold especially true since the rise of content marketing. Sales people have become more “salesy” in the way they engage with people and then wonder why they don’t get the responses they are hoping for.

Every interaction with our prospects and clients is an opportunity to connect, leave an impression and communicate value. If we treat email like a mass communication vehicle, it will be perceived as such.

Emails are the new Snail Mail

Just remember when we used to get letters, not flyers but actual letters. We would sit down, read them and then take an action, or not.

Emails are not that different. It’s the “new letter” where we want to be as careful in the way we write, phrase and format, being mindful of grammar and spelling and making sure that we are heard.

Get attention with your Subject Line

First off, there is the subject line. It needs to draw you in and it needs to be eye catching, but not to the point of sounding like a commercial. One of my favorite subject lines is “Discussion on (fill in blank). Whether it’s a Discussion on Sales Training, or a Discussion on Internet Connectivity, it gives the person on the other side of the screen an idea what you are all about.

Focus on the Value

Then there is the introduction. You want to get to the point quickly, focusing on the value that you would bring to the table, should they partner with you. In order to communicate the value you need to research your audiences carefully, because value means different things to different people. For example, a Finance Person will be interested in a product/solution that can save them money, while an Operations Person will be open to hearing about efficiencies.

What’s your call To Action?

And then you want to incorporate a call to action, such as “I will call you again tomorrow” to let them know that you are serious. That means however, that you will actually have to call them the next day, otherwise you will lose credibility.

All of these areas need time and research to develop. Good emails don’t grow on trees and they are not whipped up in a minute or two.

Remember, people buy from people and if we forget that it’s people who will be reading our correspondence (no matter what format), we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get responses.

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20 May

Sales Success – Namaste

by Monika

Free stock photo of person, woman, relaxation, girl

In Sales, only the numbers count. Sales Success is measured by closed business. In Yoga, the results show in peace of mind. Both practices require persistence and patience. What’s most important though is that Yoga and Sales lessons should be practiced on a daily basis, incorporated into our lives. For over a decade I have been practicing Yoga and it’s helped me stay balanced, as much as one can expect from a Dominant D-Behavioral Type (or Type A Personality) like myself. It’s been a process to focus on my breathing, taking time out of my busy schedule to stretch myself to the limit, but it’s paid off. I am certainly calmer and more focused than 10 years ago.

Take Yoga off the Mat!

One of my Yoga teacher’s mantra is: “What’s really important is that we take Yoga off the mat“.  At first I didn’t quite understand what she meant. But then, one day, I walked out of the Yoga studio onto the parking lot and one of my fellow Yoga practitioners almost drove into me. He was pulling out of his parking spot like a Formula One driver taking off from the pole position.

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

Take Sales Training Out of the Classroom

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

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

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

Persistence in Practicing Both Yoga & Sales

In Yoga, unless you practice on a regular basis you won’t see results. Calmness and being mindful is a result of regular practice and awareness. The same holds true for the sales environment. Practice, Application and Persistence are the best ingredients when it comes to achieving excellence. In sales it’s about performance, but we also need to be present and aware, otherwise we will not be good at listening to our prospects.

Sustainable change however will only happen if we take sales training out of the classroom to incorporate the lessons into our daily interactions. It’s important to learn about and improve on how to overcome objections, how to handle stalls, and to practice cold calling and prospecting techniques. More important however is application. Application is key to success.

 

Being a good student won’t necessarily result in revenue

I know many sales people who have read every single book that was ever written about sales. They follow thought leaders and diligently read and quote the newest articles. Some of them are top performers, but too many are just good “students”. And by that I mean, that they can theoretically talk about the concepts, but they can’t consistently and successfully apply them in real life.

We observe that in our sales training programs all the time. We ask participants to apply what they have learned. Their performance improvement is measured by their ability to transfer their knowledge to real live client interactions.

And the proof is in the pudding. The ultimate success shows in closed business. If sales training doesn’t result in long term, sustaining change, it’s not worth the investment.

Whether it’s practicing Yoga or doing Sales Training, we will only succeed when we are able to take our practices out of the learning environment and into our every day lives.

Namaste:)

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Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Sales Certification, Consultative Selling

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