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Even in Sales there are no Quick Fixes

Posted on: October 29th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Social Media and available technology have changed our world and the way we do business and it has made us more impatient. Now, more than ever we are hoping for a Quick Fix and advertising campaigns feed into that trend. Whether it’s losing weight or finding a spouse, you will find offerings for a solution for pretty much anything your heart desires but the big question is – will it work?

From my point of view, wanting to lose weight quickly (while it sounds intriguing) is not a good idea, because often the pounds come right back if you don’t change your lifestyle and don’t even get me started on finding a spouse. In my book “Dating & Selling and why they are so Similar” I write about it in detail.

These days we expect things to change immediately

So, basically we are conditioned to expect things to change in a short period of time and that also shows in the way we do business. We start skipping steps, we think that content marketing and using Social Media can replace effective prospecting or client management, but the reality is that as humans we still want to be treated with respect and we want to feel special. Whether it’s in a dating situation or in the business world. I don’t think there is anybody out there who would want to feel like a mass target.

Sales is a Process

Recently, I have seen trends in the sales world where sales people are encouraged to use a mass outreach, playing the numbers game rather than doing account planning, researching their prospect base and picking up the phone.

It’s the opposite of customer centric or consultative selling. It’s a very tactical approach where the focus is on key words, marketing campaigns and social media channels and sales people forget to be strategic.

Consultative Selling is a process and like with every process it needs to be developed and followed. Once you start skipping steps, the results will not be what you expect. It’s very similar to dieting. When you follow your diet plan only every second day, the pounds will not drop.

Here are some areas that we teach in our Consultative Sales Program to help sales people stay on track.

Plan your accounts

As a sales person you need to know your top target accounts and how to develop business within these organizations. Who are the decision makers, who are the influencers, what are the challenges the industry experiences, and how does my product/service fit into their business model?

Research

Sales people need to research the industry, the target company and the people they prospect. Before a sales person picks up the phone or writes an email, they need to understand how their offering could be of benefit to the prospect. And here is also where Social Media comes effectively into play. Researching people on LinkedIn is something that every mindful sales people should do.

Speak your customer’s language

People digest information in different ways. Some prospects will prefer email, others will be more responsive to a phone call. Some people are visual, others digest information orally. In our program participants learn to understand how their prospects and clients best  respond and absorb information. This is crucially important once sales people get deeper into the sales process.

Listen, listen, listen

Consultative and Customer Centric Selling is all about listening and providing value to the client. It’s not about pushing a sale no matter what. It’s about listening to your prospect’s needs and finding a way to best serve them. This will not only help sales people sell more, it will result in more profitable accounts and additional revenue from existing clients who will have confidence in your company to be a trusted advisor.

Pick up the phone!

Finally, one of my favorite tips. Pick up the phone! Too many sales people rely on email and social media to connect with prospects and/or clients. When you prospect and you are mindful, people do appreciate a phone call as long as you have something of value to say and you are not pitching them. With existing clients, phone calls are necessary to stay in touch, to be connected and to understand how needs might have changed. This also presents enormous up-selling opportunities.

Lean Forward – Or Walk Away?

Posted on: September 12th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Recognizing Buying Signs & Gaining Commitments

The purpose of sales is to close business and increase revenue (and profits, too!). While this might be obvious to some, one would be surprised how many sales people actually dance around not understanding when to “lean forward” and when to move on. Many sales are lost because a salesperson has failed to recognize buying signs. Simply acting on buying signals alone will close the majority of your sales. So, what are the most common buying signs? First, let’s think about the entire selling process.

Closing a sale when engaged in a Consultative Sales Process is not a single event.  It’s a string of commitments or agreements throughout the sales process that a sales or service professional needs to recognize to ensure that the final commitment, the closing of the sale, will be a natural, easy one.

Recognizing Buying Signs

Just the other day I had a delightful conversation with one of our business partners and while chatting we were commiserating about the fact that too many sales people are afraid to gain commitments and/or to understand that sometimes the sale just won’t happen. My friend compared it with a date (which of course is a topic close to my heart as I wrote the book “Dating & Selling & Why They Are So Similar!”).

He said that after a handful of dates you should be expecting a kiss. If you don’t get it, then you need to re-assess the situation. The same holds true in selling. When you have appointment after appointment, phone calls, webinars, etc and you can’t move the needle, you are either not talking to the right people or you have misread buying (or “not-gonna-buy”) signs.

Being a salesperson can be discouraging at times, especially if you have put significant time into developing an account, preparing a proposal or working on a contract and then not closing the sale.  It’s easy to start thinking of what you could have been doing with the time you just “wasted” working on a sale that you didn’t get.  You could have been fishing or practicing Yoga.  But just as with fishing, you need to throw the line in before you can catch fish.  If you wait to throw the line in only when you think there will be a big catch, it will never happen.  Top salespeople realize this and often “pay themselves” for each sales call, knowing that they need to have sales activity in order to generate sales.  Top sales professionals know that they get paid for every NO!

Gaining Commitments

Here are some typical examples of gaining commitment during a sale straight out of our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program:

When you ask for an appointment – This may seem insignificant, yet it is often the first YES that gets the ball rolling.  A customer will not commit to you until they’ve said ‘yes’ at least twice.  Assertively asking for an appointment is the best way to start the closing process.

When you first meet with the customer and begin to uncover needs – You may simply state,

“If we can show you how we can increase your production by utilizing us as a source, will you consider switching vendors?”  You are beginning to condition your customer to say ‘Yes’.

When a customer asks you for something or has a special request– For instance, when a customer asks you to put together a quote or special pricing.  STOP! Don’t run off to purchasing or your manager just yet! Right now, this is a perfect opportunity to close by asking the customer for a commitment.

You might say, “If we put together this special pricing, what will your next steps be?”  OR

“Assuming that we are able to do what you ask, will you go ahead and switch to us as your main supplier?” 

This is extremely important for two reasons.  First, it mentally commits the customer to you.  It is very difficult for customers to back down after they have made this type of commitment.

Secondly, it will clear up any misunderstanding or missed intentions that will save you and your purchasing department or your management from wasting time.

When you’ve uncovered a need – you can simply ask a question like,

“If we can take care of that concern, you’ll want to go ahead with this, right?”

Over 18 years of research and competency modeling with over 4,500 top performers has shown again and again what top sales people think about and do:

  • Top salespeople realize they get paid for every NO.

(Some sales professionals even pay themselves for each NO.)

  • There are fears of closing both from the buyer and seller (yes, you!) perspective.  Knowing your sales numbers helps to alleviate these. (Check out my next blog for dealing with buyer and seller fears!)
  • Don’t change voice modulation when closing the sale.
  • That you should lean forward before asking for a commitment.
  • To eliminate words that make customers feel uncomfortable (Check out my next blog for dealing with buyer and seller fears!)
  • Pepper statements with glamour words to create interest.
  • Simply acting on buying signs will close the majority of sales.

Closing signs that your customers may demonstrate include:  When the buyer leans forward, or when the buyer asks specific questions, or your customer gives you a verbal or visual acceptance signs (such as asking you to explain something again, or nodding in agreement).

And finally, here are some Facts About Closing: Can you Fill In the Correct Answers?

Use these percentages:   10%    80%      52%      80%      50%

v             % of all sales are closed after the fifth closing attempt.

v             % of all sales calls end without the salesperson trying to close once.

v             % of all purchases from a new supplier take place after the fifth call.

v    Only        % of salespeople make more than five calls on a given prospect.

v    More than          % of salespeople make only one call & then give up.

If you are interested in the answers, Click Here! 

You will be surprised!

How effective are voice mails?

Posted on: August 19th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Many sales people struggle with the decision as to whether they should leave a voice mail message or not. In a consultative sales environment, once you have identified your ideal client profile and you have developed the most effective messaging the question is not whether you should leave a voice mail or not. The challenge is to craft a message that is concise, short and relevant while still personal.

The main objective is to be heard. Whether somebody picks up the phone or your phone attempt goes into voice mail, there is only a couple of seconds you have to get your prospect’s attention. Your message should always be tailored to meet their needs, it is not an opportunity to pitch your service or product. Every phone interaction is an interruption of their day. Unless you have something to offer that will make their life easier, they will not pay attention. Remember, nobody wants to be sold to, so the more you talk about the challenges that your audiences might face, the higher the likelihood that they will listen.

Be courteous and respectful

Courtesy and professionalism go a long way. When leaving a voice mail message, try to focus on something that will set you apart from the crowd. Make mention of something that will help your prospect put your message into context. We all get inundated with e-mails, phone calls and voice mails so the more precise and personal you can be, the better the outcome.

Be relevant

Here is an example of a voice mail that will most likely not get any attention or be deleted:

Hi, I am calling you from XYZ company to see if you want to talk to us about our superior accounting system. Our clients love our solution and we pride ourselves in having the best customer service in the industry. Maybe we can set-up a time to talk so I can tell you more about our system. Please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

There is nothing unique or engaging about this message and it’s full references about the offering and nothing about the prospect’s needs.

Below is a message that is more personal and benefit driven.

Hi, my name is xxxx xxxx and I am calling from XYZ company. We work with companies in your industry to help them streamline their financial transactions to optimize resources and monitor cash flow. I also sent you an email, but will follow up with another message to determine if you are interested in a conversation. I will call you again If I don’t hear back before end of week.

This message includes a value proposition and a call to action. The prospect should know that you will call again which gives them the opportunity to say “no thanks” if there is no interest or to respond in a positive way. 

Be personal

If you have more information on that prospect you can also work it into the messaging, so it is more personal. For example, if you got an Out of Office reply to your e-mail the previous week you could make mention of it. “I saw that you were out of the office last week, so you probably didn’t have the time to review my e-mail”.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

The important thing to remember is that a voice mail message should sound personal and not scripted. While using a script can help, it needs to include language that you will be comfortable using, just like sitting next to that person. Should you flounder or stumble, no worries. Just make a joke about it. My favorite line is “Obviously I have not had enough coffee today” or “Wow, it’s obviously getting too late for me to sound eloquent“……. This is actually an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, to sound human and not salesy.

Practice

If you are not sure how your voice mail will sound , leave one for yourself or a friend and listen to it or have them critique it. It’s a powerful exercise. And remember, never say anything that you don’t mean or you are not comfortable with, it comes through in your voice. Authenticity goes a long way, especially in sales.

5 Steps to Keep Control of the Sale

Posted on: July 9th, 2013 by Monika 1 Comment

Buying or leasing a car is an emotional decision. At least for me it is and listening to most of my friends it feels like it’s similar for them. Yes, you are buying a product but you are also making a decision as part of an experience. Not only the driving experience, but the way you feel in the car, the way people perceive you in that car, how practical it is and the list goes on.

So, when I walked into a Toyota dealership the other week looking at some models that could compare to the VW Jetta that I was currently driving, I was almost “sold” on the idea that the RAV4 could make sense to me. I was over on my mileage allowance with my Jetta and the new model doesn’t come with a built-in navigation system. My husband had gone to the dealership the day before to see if we could get a good deal trading in our Jetta and I felt that it was a good idea to make that move. Everything made sense and I was prepared to give up my European car, which is a “biggie” to me, to save some money and to get my navigation system that I so desperately need to not end up lost in a dark alley somewhere.

So, what happened that I didn’t buy the Toyota, but instead, decided to go with another Jetta? It was mainly the whole sales & customer service experience. You could say I just simply didn’t feel the love. But there are five important steps in the consultative sales process that were missing in this situation (not necessarily in this order).

1) Understand & Acknowledge Who the Buyer Is (and Understand Who the Influencers Are)

The sales person never looked at me, only addressed my husband although we had told her on numerous occasions that it was my car, and I was the buyer. Even when buying a car there are influencers (my dog, for example, and I took him along to make sure the car wasn’t too high for him – don’t judge me – LOL!). In this case, I was the Economic Buyer. It was my car therefore I was the final decision-maker.

2) Listen to Your Customer’s Needs

When I test drove the car the sales person pointed out how great the model was and that it’s literally flying out of the showroom, because it’s so extraordinarily popular and in such high demand. She never asked me if I liked the way it drove (I didn’t). In fact, she never even asked me one question – assuming that this “great” model would sell itself.

3) Manage Expectations

Under-Promise and Over-Deliver – a good motto to have.  It turned out that their initial calculations were off. The trade-in turned out to be far less attractive financially the day we showed up at the dealership than they had calculated the day before. A big negative for me as I was truly looking to find an economically sensible solution.

4) Stay in Control of the Sale

And most importantly, she let me leave the dealership to go home and think about it. Once I went home and reflected on the experience, I really started missing my Jetta (although it was still sitting in my garage). I couldn’t bear the thought of giving it up. Quite unexpectedly, it didn’t bother me anymore that there was no factory-installed GPS system.  I also realized that I could use my large screen Smartphone instead. And finally, I didn’t feel valued during the entire process and it reflected on how I felt about the car. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the whole idea of switching.

5) Create Value

Had the sales person addressed me (instead of my husband) and asked me questions about my needs, focusing on the fact that the Toyota offered navigation, a feature I couldn’t get with the new Jetta, and had the numbers not changed to my disadvantage, maybe I would have signed right then and there. I would have felt understood and valued. But she didn’t do any if the above. She didn’t seem to care about my needs. She only focused on other features of the car that didn’t speak to my needs and once I walked out of the dealership the sale was lost.

We have a segment in our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program that showcases an example similar to what occurred, but it wasn’t until I experienced it myself that I realized that even cars don’t sell themselves.

Consultative Selling Puts the Buyer in the Driver’s Seat

A comprehensive consultative sales approach truly helps sales people guide the customer/client through the sale to their final purchasing decision. Consultative sales people don’t push features – they identify needs and create a solution that is of value to that particular prospect/client. Buyers working with committed consultative sales professionals will never feel “sold to”. They know they’ll have made a decision that works for them. And surprisingly enough, consultative selling isn’t only necessary when you sell a service, but obviously also when you sell a product.

Dare to Be Counter-Intuitive!

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by Monika 1 Comment

Recently, I finished reading a book written by one of the “Housewives of New York”, Carole Razdiwill. Don’t judge me, I love watching these shows. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Contrary to popular perception, this book is excellently written, riveting and it takes you on a journey that is both intriguing and sad. The author is the widow of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ nephew.

The book is entitled: “What Remains“, and it describes the story of four young people who were hoping to grow old together as close friends, just that “fate” wouldn’t have it that way.

One of the characters in the book is JFK, Jr. and it goes without saying that the crash of his airplane is part of the narrative. As most people know and perhaps remember, the aircraft he was piloting crashed into the ocean near Martha’s Vineyard.

It was determined that the crash was caused by “Spatial Disorientation”, which is a condition in which an airplane pilot’s perception of the plane’s direction, height, speed, etc. does not agree with reality.

Perception vs. Reality

It was at that tragic point of the story where I decided to write a blog about sales and how many practitioners suffer from Sales Disorientation, which is a condition in which the sales person’s perception of her/his sales approach does not agree with reality. OK, I just made that part up but trust me, it happens a lot.

In the situation where a pilot loses accurate perception of reality it would require her/him to act counter-intuitively and rely on objective, measurable criteria (instruments, radar, etc). Only in doing that, can the course be corrected and the plane landed safely.

In sales, the disconnect between perception and reality can also have very damaging effects, but to my knowledge nobody has died from it, although many sales practitioners might have crashed and burned.

The Expectation of Success

Those sales professionals who succumb to Sales Disorientation have plenty of time and resources to get themselves out of trouble, but they often continue on as if their determination to succeed at all costs blinds them to the multitude of options they could take advantage of. Why do sales professionals who become aware of their sales approach not working continue to plunge ahead? An unfounded “expectation of success” appears to play a significant role in such cases. All too often we see salespeople go into sales calls without a back-up plan, assuming they’ll be successful. Without really knowing their prospect’s/client’s real needs, without understanding what real value means, and without a Plan B, they have no other choice, truly, other than to continue on. In doing so, we find these salespeople developing a kind of tunnel vision that seems to lock up the brain as their sales process with their prospect/client goes awry. And should salespeople be occasionally successful in such situations, their habits are reinforced, and they can begin to write off the not successful encounters to reasons that have nothing to do with their approach or style.

A Counter-Intuitive Sales Approach?

Why is it that we need to be counter-intuitive? Because we need to stay connected to our prospects and their world, rather than living in our “sales” bubble humming along.

Very often in sales we are taught to work as fast and as hard as we can and say “yes” at any cost. We are encouraged to please and to accommodate although it’s really important to determine if the solution is a fit and if not, then to sometimes walk away from a prospective sale.

 

Let’s Look at Some Specific Examples

Perception Reality
1) Make as many calls as possible Only effective if you have all the resources in the world, and you are only calling the companies that could profit from your offering
2) Target as many companies as you can Don’t boil the ocean. Be specific on who you want to target otherwise you will get lost in the ocean
3) Tell your prospect what you’ve got Rather listen to your prospect and don’t push features
4) Focus on the benefits of your offering Ask the right questions and then develop a value proposition that your prospect can relate to
5) Brag & tell your prospects how great your service is Focus on the areas that can help your prospect make money, save money, improve their business or their reputation within their organization and they will get excited
6) Convince your prospect that you are the right choice Your prospect won’t need to be convinced if you are the right choice. But what if you are not? Not every organization is a good fit for your service offering
7) Try to get a “yes” from your prospects Rather go for honest responses, even if it’s a “no”. The sooner you find out, the better it is so that you can move forward or move on while leaving a good impression

 

In closing, I know that it probably takes a lot of courage to do things that seem counter-intuitive, but the results can be life saving or in the sales world, very rewarding and life-fulfilling!

Trust me. I know. I’ve gone down that path many times successfully. You can, too!

Are Sales People Afraid?

Posted on: September 20th, 2012 by Monika 1 Comment

I know, it sounds a bit silly. Afraid of what?  In my experience, many sales people are afraid of rejection. Actually, most people are afraid of rejection just that in sales it’s a daily issue.

Why is fear so present in sales?

Because in my opinion there is no other business practice where you have to bring yourself in as much as in sales. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional and personal. We professionals in sales are measured by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, during every call and client interaction.

So where does this fear originate?

The fear stems from being afraid of rejection. Nobody wants to be rejected, but in sales it’s part of our daily reality. It starts with the cold calling/prospecting efforts that most sales people are terrified of. It could be a mindset issue that is keeping you from breaking through to others. Being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). But in a sales environment it’s a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on earning commission.

Fear-less Cold-calling/Prospecting? Is there such a thing?

There is various ways to deal with the fear of cold-calling.

You can hire an inside sales person or a lead generation team to take the cold calling off your sales people.

Or, you can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling by supporting the prospecting process with the right kind of research and/or providing meaningful training.

But the fear usually doesn’t stop after that. Sales people need to bring themselves in at every step of the sales process.  And if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us.

Afraid to Ask for a Sale?

Not everybody is equipped to ask for money and that’s essentially what we need to do in a sales environment. We are asking people to trust us to part with their or their company’s funds. If our prospects end up buying from us and the product/service doesn’t meet their needs, we will be held accountable for that decision. All of those areas are deeply emotional and directly connected to mindset. A good salesperson can be trained on how and when to ask for a sale that is not fear-inducing! Overcoming objections and handling stalls is also an area that can be trained. Actually, objections and stalls very often present an opportunity when handled properly.

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

To the most part, no. Take the fear of public speaking – it is so intense that some people freeze up although there is no imminent danger lurking. In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. While not always rational, fear can certainly keep us from being successful. especially in sales.

Help Can Be Right There In Your Team!

The most effective way to help sales people be more comfortable in a sales environment is to help them feel more confident. Confidence often stems from having been successful, so when companies establish an environment where sales people are nurtured and supported rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.

Also, understand what your sales people are good at and where the weaknesses (or as we prefer to say: the opportunities to improve) lie. If you have a strong cold caller on your team, tap into that talent (trust me, it’s rare) and share commission when revenue is closed.

When you have a strong “closer” on your team, bring him/her into final meetings to lend support. Very often we ask too much of sales people and the feeling over being overwhelmed results in panic, desperation and in the worst case scenario unprofessional behavior.

Identify your team’s strengths

So, in the end, always try to analyze why your sales people are not producing. Develop their strengths, and nurture their areas of opportunities through training and support. The investment you make can pay off manifold if you choose training that actually effects real behavioral change!

And finally, just maybe, some sales people might not really be equipped to be in sales. You might detect that in the way they position your company offering, or in their attitude and/or work habits. You will definitely find out if revenue is lacking. Whatever changes you decide to make to increase your sales revenues, make sure you know your sales staff well.

They are your first and foremost representation. We should all shine as sales people, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more “fearless” salespeople!

Setting your Benchmarks for Hiring Sales People

Posted on: September 6th, 2012 by Monika 1 Comment

Having been in the field of sales and sales training for so many years, I know the recruiting process can be complicated, lengthy and full of pitfalls. Do you go with your gut feeling? Do you trust all the references? Do you hire somebody who is charismatic, or somebody who knows the industry? What can and should you measure objectively to help ensure that you’re making the right choice?

First Impressions

Many companies feel that sales people should be aggressive and gregarious. In a consultative sales environment that can actually be an obstacle rather than an asset. Hiring a good sales person is as difficult if not harder than hiring a good account manager. The challenge is to make sure that no matter what, your sales people will conduct themselves in a professional way. After all, they are usually the first introduction to your brand or company.

I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered unprofessional behavior from sales people who were calling on me as a business owner. Bad first impressions can ruin your  perception of a brand and the likelihood of you choosing that brand and working with that company will be lower. It’s a fine line between persuasion and intrusion. Good sales people need to find that balance every single day, every single time they pick up the phone and every time they interact with a prospect.

Sometimes, the desire to sell is so high that courtesy goes out the window. Often, sales people want to impress with product knowledge rather than understanding the prospect’s needs. Very often this is caused by pressure to meet numbers rather than building long-term relationships

Finding a Fit

So, how do you choose a sales person who will fit in with your organization’s culture? Let’s say you think you’ve found the right candidate. You’ve interviewed that person, so have others in your organization. You’ve done reference checking, and everybody is more or less in agreement that you have a good match. Now, what can you and what should you do to objectively establish how good a fit they really are. The good news is there are a number of widely tested tools that can provide you with the kind of support you can readily use, without taking large chunks out of your day and your budget!

You can utilize tests such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, but also have a look into the Kolbe A Index, which you can administer to your entire team and then your candidate(s) to determine how well they fit and can work together with the other members of your team. You’ll find the results can be real eye-openers!

What Strengths Are Most Important?

Once you’ve found the right personality and work-type match, let’s make sure everyone’s working in the same direction. In our B2B environment today, standing out and becoming your clients’ provider of choice demands a comprehensive, solution-oriented or consultative sales approach, built around your own client-centric philosophy.

You’ll want to examine your own sales process. Will your sales person need to do their own prospecting? Will they have to work with other team members to push a sale through the funnel? Being a door opener and/or a team player at the same time could present a challenge. Sales people always have at least one area of weakness and depending on your organizational DNA that will determine your hiring criteria. For example, if you have an inside sales team available, you can hire outside sales people who are strong relationship builders and closers.

As far as one area of sales competency is concerned, you need to make sure that your candidate is a good listener. That is something you can easily assess during the interviewing process. Pay attention to how many questions your candidates ask vs. the candidates tooting their own horn. You should also make sure that your candidate is a good writer because written communication is key to making connections today in the evolving use of social media and email communication. Here’s another important step in the interviewing process. Before hiring sales people engage the candidates in phone conversations. In today’s B2B environment almost all prospecting is done over the phone.  Sometimes people come across strong in-person, but their phone presence is weak.

Assessing Sales Skills & Knowledge

We’re getting closer now. Your candidate has good oral and written skills, has a good phone presence. But what about all the other areas of sales skills and knowledge that are essential to being a top sales person? We have worked with our research partners for many years to establish eight areas of sales competencies that have proven to be the foundation for the success of top sales professionals in a wide range of industries. So, how do you find out if your candidate possesses these competencies, and in which areas is there a need for improvement? Within our Consultative Sales Certification Training Program we have an integral element which is our initial Sales Skills & Knowledge Assessment. We have all participants to work through this assessment before we conduct any training. This comprehensive assessment gives you a very detailed and measurable view of a sales person’s skills and knowledge in the arena of solution-oriented or consultative selling. It also helps you understand if their strengths or opportunities to grow are in prospecting, overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.

This assessment helps our clients hire the right people and after a successful completion of our sales training efforts we can test their consultative selling skills and knowledge again to gauge their improvement. We have found that even the best sales people have areas of improvement and the only way to measure is working off a set of well-established benchmarks.

Bottom line is that you can’t hire the right person if you don’t know what you are looking for and you can’t measure success if you don’t have a benchmark.

Sales & Metrics – What Are We Really Measuring?

Posted on: August 23rd, 2012 by Monika No Comments

As a consultative business development specialist my clients often ask me to provide metrics on my sales efforts. Fair enough, but what do they really mean?

In too many cases metrics are used to measure quantity of activity rather than progress.
For me it’s always important why we measure and to work toward an objective.
What’s more important for you? – Keeping nice, neat spreadsheets with lots of entries that might please the CEO or results that reflect a meaningful process and real progress toward closing sales?

Does Quantity Matter?

There is this widely-held misconception that quantity in sales is the key to success.
It’s important, but only when it is tied to a process. It’s certainly not THE key to success.
If it were, all those high volume sales callers would be way ahead of the pack.
First of all, we need to understand who our ideal prospect is, what industry they live in and why they would want to buy from us. Secondly, we need to find the decision maker/buyer within the target company and then we can start counting. It is meaningless, in my opinion, even wasteful to pick up the phone or shoot off an e-mail to just any company in your CRM without understanding who they are and why they would be a good fit. You might get lucky and make some progress, but it will take a long time to actually gain traction.

So, how many calls should I make?
Sales metrics, as my experience has shown me, should be tied to results and to results only.
It really doesn’t matter how many phone calls, e-mails or marketing touches you make.
All that matters is that every action you set will take you a step closer to closing the sale.
Activity is important but only if it’s streamlined, targeted and measured against a clear objective.
A sales person who makes 500 client touches a week and never gets to go on a qualified sales presentation or meeting will most likely never make a sale. On the other hand, sales people who work smart will research a great deal, find out about their prospects and then make fewer calls, followed by well written customized emails. And these sales people will open up doors faster.
These are sales professionals who employ consultative selling strategies.

The SMART Funnel

There is a reason why we compare the sales process to a funnel. So, in a cutting-edge version of the funnel, we start with a large (or wide) number of potential prospects, and then we tighten the funnel with research. Every interaction with the targeted prospects will lead to tightening the funnel more. And if planned and executed well, will take us a step closer to a sale. Yes, quantity is important when keeping your sales funnel full, but all the activity in the world will not help you close if you don’t work toward and measure actual results.

Reports or Real Results?
Whenever my clients ask me to provide results reports, I always ask them what they plan to do with them. I ask questions like: Do you hold your sales people accountable for setting up a follow-up meeting after the first meeting? What is planned to happen after the first meeting? Are there next steps arranged? Do we know more about the prospect than we did prior to the meeting? Do we know the decision-making and purchasing process? What is the budget cycle? Who is the decision maker? Who do they currently work with? And so on.
These are questions that not only help qualify a prospect further, but are also essential to compiling data for future prospecting. Don’t ask your sales people to just put numbers on a spreadsheet.
Make sure the numbers show progress in developing business, deepening business relationships. The numbers should show a path to increased revenue and not just increased activity.

Liposuction or Weight Watchers/Effective sales training or Quick Fix?

Posted on: August 9th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

Sales is a process, so is losing weight

Effective sales training is like joining Weight Watchers. You change your approach to eating and exercising and the effects are long lasting. Ineffective sales training can be compared to crash diets or getting a liposuction where the weight will come back quicker but if you don’t change your habits it will come back. People who want to lose weight need to think about changing their eating habits and their lifestyle. Sales people who want to be more successful should encourage their leaders to provide sales training that is effective and shows results. Sitting in a class room for a couple of days might not be the answer.

Consultative Selling is a lifestyle as much as healthy living

Unless you are lucky and born with an overactive metabolism you will have to watch what you are eating and do some exercise. And, unless you are born with the unique gift to sell (which not everybody is), you will benefit from good and effective sales training. Companies that require a consultative sales approach should arm their business development and client facing employees with the tools to be more effective. There is no quick fixes, not in healthy living or successful selling.

A mindset shift needs to happen

When participants enroll in our consultative sales program we make them aware that sales is a process and so is shifting your mindset. Ideally, we see a shift in perception and application over the first month, but it might take a bit longer for learners to digest the information and for them to apply newly developed techniques in a way where they don’t have to think about it any more.

It doesn’t happen overnight

The day when you choose a banana over a muffin without thinking can be compared to the day when a sales person asks more questions without having to remind themselves that they should be listening more than talking. That’s when behavioral change actually takes place.

This is what one of our graduates said. That is when change actually happens.

“I used to think that the word “sales” was a dirty word. I am a VP in a transportation company – it’s about moving freight and finding loads.  Now I think differently about what sales means. I have seen what consultative business development does to relationships and both my business & my clients’ business!”– S. M., V.P., TRANSPORT NATIONAL

And this is what happened as a result:

“… after having been in operations for over 15 years and I am learning so many new things…everything I am learning is on my mind before I ask or answer a question. I have been able to close two accounts and getting close to two others, and working to close an account that will be over a million dollars a year.” – Y. C., Regional Sales Manager

Increased Revenue is the goal

The goal of effective sales training is to shift the way we feel about the process and by doing so we will uncover opportunities and add value to our prospects and clients, which will result in additional revenue.

This is however something that cannot happen in a day or two. The reason why we work with companies who understand that sales is process and change happens over time is the same reason why Weight Watchers doesn’t promise that one will lose 10 pounds in a week.

Kudos to all the business leaders who provide an environment where their sales people are allowed to learn more, even when they are already successful.

There is nothing wrong with being more successful, slimmer and healthier!

Pro-Choice! 3 Steps to A Better Sales Process!

Posted on: July 11th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

In politics a very hot topic, but here it’s about giving your prospects a choice! A choice to say “Yes” or “No” quickly and safely.

Sales is a process, especially in a consultative sales environment and it starts with choosing the right prospect.

1) First, we need to research and target a prospective client company (Is it a good fit? Is it a good use of our time?)

2) Then we need to find the decision maker within that organization. Once we have that information, we can safely assume (looking from the outside in) that the person we are targeting could be a good prospect for our service offering.

3) The next step is to craft a message that will resonate. It should be succinct, to the point and relevant to our audience.

Recently, I was planning a trip to a southwest state capital. We are implementing a sales training program for a client in that area. My thinking was, why not tag on a number of sales meetings? This way I can make more use of my plane ticket and the 5-hour travel time.

While I was crafting my e-mail copy I remembered a best practice that I used a couple of years ago, but had forgotten since then. In one of my mastermind mentor groups we had recently discussed the importance of this practice for both the prospect as well as the service provider.

It is the art of having a prospect choose you based on selected criteria that you apply. It’s an easy way to get to a quick “no” if they don’t fit the criteria, but also a sure way for prospects who are a good fit for your service offering to select you.

Here is how it works.

In my email I pointed out that I would be traveling to the area where they are located at the end of the month. (First criteria: they need to be located in the area and available at that time)

Then I continued to describe what my clients generally have in common. Here’s a partial list:

1) Their revenue is at least $10Mio.

2) They are sales oriented and have at least one (ideally more) sales locations.

3) They embrace or would like to embrace a consultative sales approach.

May I share with you what happened?

I reached out to 50 companies. I had two responses and they both resulted in meetings. Qualified, good meetings.

One of the prospects immediately e-mailed me back saying,

“I got your e-mail, I visited your website and it looks like there could be a fit. Let’s meet”.

The reason why many of my existing clients are reluctant to do the “self-select” messaging, I believe, is a very simple and human one.

They are afraid to miss out.

And now that I think about it, that was probably the reason why I had “forgotten” my own best practice.

Deep down we all feel that quantity is one of the keys to success. The more, the better.

It’s what we have been taught. It’s all around us in the media, advertising, marketing.

Almost brainwashed! But not completely!

And it really couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to utilizing a consultative sales model.

The more targeted your approach, the better. The more you invite rejection or silence (no responses), the higher the likelihood that the meetings you book will be of high quality.

Why? Because your prospects will be very clear of who you are looking for in a future client.

I would gladly add another day or two to meet with prospects on my training trip to the southwest.

It means potential new business!

If the meetings are not qualified however, it could end up being a waste of my precious, already strained time.  But most importantly, it could be a waste of my prospect’s time and leave a bad impression.

We’re here to serve – not to force ourselves on others. If we decide to be selective and targeted, our prospects will appreciate it and we will end up with better meetings.

BUT, there will be a lot of silence and the response rate will be a lot lower. On the other hand, you will be running a lot fewer empty miles.

For some sales people it’s hard to live in silence. Can you handle it?