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Posts Tagged ‘Sales’

Daily Inspiration From A Simple Gift

The road to business development success takes many turns, with many of those turns unexpected. Just as unexpected, can be the surprise source of a nugget that speaks to the mindset or habits that separate the real high performers from the rest of the pack. Finding one of those nuggets may require something as simple as tearing off the next page of a desk calendar filled with quotes.

Random Surprises

I’ve been grateful to receive just such a calendar from someone I’ve done business with, but more importantly have developed a valuable relationship with over the last few years. We met twenty years ago in one of those unexpected turns, and along the way have shared many conversations about the philosophy of success, raising kids, taking risks, running our businesses and just about everything else. His gift of a simple calendar each year has always provided me with random surprises of humor or insightful advice from the icons of history or contemporary life.

Courage

So, from the 28th of January, 2010 comes a classic thought as we all begin to get after it again day after day trying to make a buck and keep our families fed and our clients satisfied. In as true a statement about what makes business development efforts so challenging as I’ve read in a long time, I’ll close by sharing what that master motivator had to say 60 years ago or so. From Winston Churchill, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

Like I said, a rare gem from an unexpected source. Thanks, Kevin!

Your Business Development Results Are Only History

02/04/2010 Leave a comment

That’s right. Looking at your results is just a history record of what you have done in the past. It’s a lagging indicator (or rear view mirror) of the sum total of your efforts over the past few weeks and months. Maybe it was prospecting, networking or listening to your past and current clients that got you there. That being the case, is there any way that you can find a forward looking or leading indicator of your future results?

Your Sales Pipeline isn’t the whole answer

You’d be partially right if you thought that your Pipeline is part of the answer. Depending on your qualifying and closing averages, it can give you a good clue as to what to expect in the future. So sure, you can do the same you’ve been doing, and work at it harder, more frequently and with more intensity. Nobody would discourage that behavior, but it takes a lot of time and effort to get the desired incremental returns on that kind of grinding.

The Intangibles

So perhaps a better leading indicator of future results is not always the quantity of effort, but rather the quality of the effort. Can it be that your own personal and professional development could really have the biggest impact on your future results? No doubt that the old adage about working “Smarter” comes into play here. But how do you define it? Is it increasing product knowledge, sales skills or other expertise in your field, or is it more about intangibles like passion, self awareness, emotional control, understanding, insights and perception? Only a consistent program of self development is the way to find the answers that are right for you. How hard would it be to get off the roller coaster a little bit every week to focus on self development as your leading indicator of success?

Many thanks to Daniel Grissom for inspiring the concept about the Leading Indicator.

What does the North Star have to do with Business?

01/27/2010 Leave a comment

I know where the North Star is with 100% certainty. It’s like death and taxes. Unless someone moved it, or everything written about astronomy over the last few hundred years is just a big hoax, it’s usually pretty easy to find if you know where to look. Sometimes when the conversation comes up with others, and I show them where it is, I’ll get a reaction like this … “No, that’s not it. It’s not the brightest. That’s not North”, or some other reason for them to dispute the reality. Although they obviously don’t know where it is, they are almost certain of where it isn’t.

What’s the point Smarty Pants?

So when we recommend to managers that are selecting sales people to use an assessment before making a hiring decision, we sometimes get a similar reaction like this …  “No, they don’t work. I don’t want to spend the money. I’ve done it before. I can trust my gut. But we know him or her.” … and all the other reasons.

OK, I’m alright with skepticism up to the point where it doesn’t fly in the face of the truth or the proof. The stats for our assessments are this: When you follow the recommendation to Hire, there is a 94% chance of success. When you ignore the recommendation Not to Hire, your chances of success go down to 25%. Those stats are based on hundreds of thousands of real life data points and have been back tested to confirm the validity. No doubt that 94% isn’t as sure as 100%, but it’s pretty darned good when it comes to understanding the future potential and production of a very important and expensive asset.

Is it really that simple?

No it is not that simple, so don’t believe it when you hear it. Nothing is that simple anymore. Using an assessment is just a part of a process. First, it has to be the right assessment. Too many products out there are marketed to have the same effectiveness, but the truth is that they do not have the same predictive validity. Secondly, potentially good sales folks can easily be de-railed by a weak on-boarding plan, mis-alignment of sales management, insufficient coaching, poor fit with the work environment or many other parts of the process. Being blind to these others factors is probably the reason that those who have used an assessment in the past no longer believe in their usefulness.

Next time you get ready to put on a new sales rep, can you please ask yourself how certain you are of the parts of your process?

Ice Cream for Breakfast?

01/20/2010 4 comments

The feeling of being denied the freedom to make your own decision is one of the worst feelings in the world. I don’t know too many people beyond the age of two that would argue with that statement. If I decide to go out and ride my bike, eat lunch at 1:30, have ice cream for breakfast or stay up until 3:00 AM, well, that is my choice thank you. So why should I change my mind if that is really what I want to do?

I’ll just sit here while you try to convince me

So when did it become fashionable to deny a prospect the choice to hear a pitch, stay with a current vendor or take advantage of special pricing from a competitor?  Is it that everyone we approach must be stupid or making a mistake if they don’t buy from us? Or is it just possible that we aren’t right for everyone? The tried and true process of spouting features and benefits is a tad “seller-centric”. .. meaning that those “can’t miss” benefits should work for everyone because that’s what the sales person is telling you. Just because you offer a car with fold down seats does that mean I should be thrilled even though I have no need for that particular feature that is so desired by someone else?


Just trust me, please

Someone once told me that feature and benefit selling amounted to “positive performance before trust” when used to fuel the sales process. I didn’t quite grasp that idea until I found myself as the prospect a few times. You could almost feel the salesperson telling me to just go ahead and trust him. And the funny thing was that the more he told me about this feature and that benefit that made no difference to me, the harder it was to believe I should grant him any trust at all.

So in an effort to find a more nurturing way to sell I began using a permission based sales approach that embraced the fact that either party could say NO, that allowed both salesperson and prospect to feel in control, and that used question marks instead of exclamation points or periods to drive the process forward. Wouldn’t we all like to work in an environment that felt that comfortable?

Where does margin come from?

We all know how to calculate margin in the simplest form by subtracting the cost of goods from the price those goods were sold for, but do many sales people, experienced or not, understand how to sell margin to their clients, suspects or prospects? When people on the street are all hyped up by presenting features and benefits, margin seems to be the last thing on their minds. What is the first thing on the mind at the executive level of the companies those salespeople are pursuing? Well, at that level it is profit or the operating margin of the business.

Rise to the Head of the Class

Features and Benefits are old school issues today. I didn’t say they weren’t important, just old school. The business development people that will rise to the head of the class and become highly profitable for their employers, and highly valued by their customers, are the ones that can provide products and services that generate profit for those customers and clients. Features and Benefits are a surface level approach that can be challenged by a “me too” competitor that is willing to drop price or make unreliable commitments. Everyone knows the downside of those experiences.

What’s the big picture?

Business development teams that can understand the business issues of the people they interact with will provide more value for longer periods of time and at higher margins. Knowing why a feature or benefit is valuable from the prospect’s perspective will build more trust than simply knowing what those features and benefits are. Features and benefits are “seller-centric” in nature, and if not attached to the total financial picture of a prospect they can be too assumptive and quite easy to ignore. The challenge then becomes how to open a business / profit conversation that doesn’t begin with a feature / benefit or price cutting pitch.

You don’t have to hire all MBA’s, but what would happen if your team embraced a little bit more business sense out on the street?

Hire Slow, Fire Fast?

11/12/2009 1 comment

Does it really have to be that way? Sure, there are lots of management courses that suggest that the old “Hire Slow, Fire Fast” process is a best practice, but there are plenty of things that have to have to go right along the way. Hiring slow the right way can make firing fast a non-issue. If so, then starting the process right pays huge dividends

Is everyone suddenly a Super Star in their own minds?

Using a proven methodology to select long term, successful hires that can and will sell ends the merry-go round practice that has become acceptable for many sales organizations.  The “hire three, keep one” stories exist in any economic condition, but with so many resumes touting a career as a top producer hitting the streets now, this practice can be even riskier. When you read these submissions it is truly hard to believe that such high producers and proven winners ever got let go at all. How did so many all-stars meet the fate of down-sizing all at the same time?

Don’t be duped

With everyone claiming they are competent, your process must include some tools and practices that separate the wheat from the chaff. Stop trusting your gut and intuition. No one’s resume says they performed poorly or got axed by an unappreciative manager, so buyers beware. Do the right thing and get some outside help. If two heads are better than one, get a second head or at least an instrument that can validate your gut feeling.  Slow down and make a selection that will last. It can’t be any worse than doing it all by yourself.

A Funny Thing happened when he quit – (Part 2 of 3)

11/10/2009 Leave a comment

In the first installment of this series, we looked at Robert, a rep that was not only overpaid relative to his results, but that was causing trouble within the organization. Because of the circumstances, Robert had made the decision to leave that position and go out to find someone that would pay him what he thought he was worth. After his resignation, his former employer was shocked to learn that there were many pockets of business that had gone untouched and were easy pickings for someone willing to do some selling.

So what happened to him?

Many of you might guess that failure or job hopping was the inevitable future, but the outcome was entirely different. Despite his vast network of contacts, Robert was more than a little deflated to find that nobody was willing to pay anything close to his last salary, and that the nature of comp plans in his business were heavily slanted towards pay for performance. Not wanting to be on the street for too long he took the best offer he could find and proceeded to figure out how he was going to make the kind of money he was used too.

Now that he was mostly on commission, it didn’t take long for our wayward rep to discover that the game had changed. Being in a slightly different market, he couldn’t really leverage all his contacts the way he used to, so something would have to give. Looking back he realized he had behaved like an account manager (farmer) rather than the new business development pro (hunter) that he was expected to be. He also knew that his pipeline of new opportunities had been a stagnant list of hope and wishes.

Progress starts with change

Now that he had a firm understanding that he would actually have to prospect and sell again, Robert found some new strength from internal motivation and an unwillingness to make any excuses for himself. He became totally committed to his own success, he was willing to track his progress, monitor his behavior and develop the confidence to set and meet the goals he had failed to set for himself in his last position.

Update: It’s only been less than a year since Robert set out on this new course, but we know he is performing a lot better than he was before and that his results continue to grow.

[In the final installment next week, we’ll take a look at the cause and effects of this situation, and connect all the dots]