How to bust out of a slump

by Michael Boyette

OK, so you’re in a slump. Sales you thought were slam dunks fell through. You can’t get people on the phone. It feels like you’re the only one in the world going through this.

You’re not.

All salespeople, just like all golfers or baseball players, have periods when the bounces aren’t going their way. But don’t just patiently wait out a slump. Take these actions:

  1. Admit you’re in trouble and work with your sales manager. He or she can help you “jump start” the problem and find an easier solution to what you’re facing.
  2. Determine if you’re doing something new and different. Are you paying the price for something you changed?
  3.  Think about it. It could be something that you began doing weeks ago but that only now is starting to hurt your sales. If you can pinpoint what you’ve altered, you can get back to your winning ways.
  4. Prospect. Get on the phone and set appointments with a fresh group of people. The fact is, when you’re on the phone, you’re canvassing your own territory and that alone will bring you results.
  5. Think about new opportunities. Have you been focusing too much on existing business and not enough on new opportunities? Network and research new ways to mold your product to find new customers.
  6. Remember what made you successful from the start. Recall how hard you worked to achieve success. Remember, success doesn’t knock on your door – but opportunity may.

Work Issues You Should Stop Complaining About

Work isn’t perfect, right? But if you are lucky enough to have a job right now it pays to remember that millions and millions of Americans don’t think you have a thing to complain about. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s unemployment rate is hovering around 10%. Even more troubling, The New York Times reports that unemployed people are spending longer periods between jobs. In December of 2008, only 22.9% of people were unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. A year later, in December of 2009, a whopping 37.8% of people were unemployed for 27 weeks or more. That means that nearly 40% of our nation’s unemployed are going without jobs for nearly seven months.

Now that Sales HQ has given you some perspective, here’s a list of 10 things that you should stop complaining about at work.

How Many Salesepeople Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb?

by David Brock

I’ve given up, we deserve all the jokes people tell about us.  Stupid sales behaviors—the source of endless jokes, the reason people hate sales people, the reason we have such difficulty in meeting with customers.

The tricks and manipulation……

A client sent me a note about one.  A sales person calls, leaves a voicemail, but doesn’t leave his name.  Curious, my client calls back, the sales person is totally unprepared, did not recall the message (left 45 minutes earlier), didn’t ask my client about their business, but starts pitching a meeting.

My friend, Anthony Iannarino, has another similar one:  “Should I leave a message with just my name and number, not why I am calling?”  The subtext to this is—let me trick someone into returning my call.

My own experience, just yesterday.  I get a voicemail, I return the call, the sales person answers—sounds like I woke him up from his afternoon nap.  Doesn’t remember why he called, then wanders through an aimless conversation—after 45 seconds, I didn’t get it, I understood he wanted to sell me something, but didn’t know what, so I thanked him and hung up.

Or the one, “We met at this conference, I wanted to follow up with you….”  When I reply, “I registered for the conference, but ended up not attending, so how did we meet?”

Then there’s the variant of the conference one — “We met at this conference two years ago….”  Wow, I think, they must have had so many leads, they are just now getting to me……

I could go on, I’ll stop here, but ask you to share your own stories in comments on this blog.  But the real reason for writing is:  Do we ever stop to listen to what we are saying?  Do we ever stop to think?  If we called ourselves and used the same approach, what would our response be?

Is thinking about what we are doing so difficult?  Is there some reason we spend lots of time looking for the latest trick, that hook, the way to “get our foot in the door,” rather than focus on “Why would this person want to talk/meet with me?  What could I do that would be meaningful to this individual?”  Both take about the same amount of time, but we seem to opt to sleight of hand, rather than the value we can create.

The goal isn’t about the number of calls–managers setting these goals take note–the goal is, how many value based conversations do we have?

When are we going to realize that buying–and selling has shifted?  It’s not about the pitch, it’s not about broadcasting a meaningless message, it’s about establishing a meaningful dialogue or conversation.  When do we start realizing that we don’t build trust through deception and manipulation?

Why do we continue to choose circuitous, confusing approaches to a prospect or customer, instead of being direct?

Sales is difficult enough, it requires real talent.  It requires real thoughtfulness.  Stop wasting your time on tricks and manipulation.  Stop wasting your time looking for or reading, “The 7 tricky ways to get your customer to say yes,” or “The 11 ways you can get your customer to answer the phone,” or “Master the ambush call.”

Invest your time in thinking–why would the customer want to talk to me?  What could I do that would create value for the customer?  How do I communicate that to the customer?  How do I make sure it’s a good investment of the customer”s time.  Think about what you are doing, research, plan, prepare.  You’d be amazed at how well it works.

Did you hear the one about, “What do you say about 200 sales people at the bottom of the sea….”

Why You Must Kick the Sourcing Habit

by Lou Adler

As many of you know — I announced it at the ERE Expo in San Diego — I’ve decided to bring recruiting back to recruiting. This is my new old mission. Somehow this has been lost in the past few years when overall candidate supply exceeded demand. Hiring top talent is not the same as finding top talent. While sourcing is a step in this journey, it is only a step, and one getting easier each passing day.

Consider this: at the current rate, by March 11, 2012, everyone will be connected by one degree of separation with everyone else either via LinkedIn or Facebook. (FYI: I define sourcing as the process of name generation only. If you pick up the phone and call a person who did not apply, and convince him or her to consider your position, you’re recruiting. If the person applied for a job and all you’re doing is qualifying the person, that’s screening, not recruiting.)

While sourcing is getting easier, recruiting these now-more-visible folks is getting harder. This will become even more challenging as the demand for top talent accelerates, and everyone makes a wholesale shift to contact the same passive candidates you’re contacting. In this case, good recruiting skills will make all the difference as to who attracts and hires the person.

Here are some interesting stats by way of a LinkedIn survey we conducted in late 2010, to validate this point. First, only 8% of the fully employed professional pool of candidates were actively looking and open to considering a lateral transfer. Another 10% were causally looking, but only interested in a better job than the one currently held. Everyone else needed a significant bump in compensation or a significant career move to even consider engaging in a conversation. Without a big employer brand, recruiters need to make the case that the jobs they’re representing offer something better. This is the first step in real recruiting.

As part of this “bring recruiting back to recruiting” mission, I put together this quick list of things modern-day recruiters need to be able to do to recruit top passive candidates. While they’re all important, which ones would you select as your top three?

  1. Know the job
  2. Know the industry and competition
  3. Partner with the hiring manager
  4. Market the job via voice and email
  5. Network, network, network
  6. Accurately screen and assess talent
  7. Recruit and influence top prospects
  8. Negotiate and close the offer
  9. Don’t take no for an answer
  10. Sell a career move, not a lateral transfer     

Your top three might be different, but here’s mine.

Although the ability to partner with the hiring manager is essential, it’s second on my list, since in order to be a partner you need to know the job. That’s why knowing the job is first on my list. Third on my list is not taking “no” for an answer. To some degree these three in combination with all of the rest all represent a chicken-and-egg-type problem. (You can download a flyer with a more complete version of this Recruiter Circle of Excellence you see in the graphic, including a ranking scale, on the Recruiter’s Wall.)

Without knowing the job, there is no way either a hiring manager or a top candidate will respect your judgment or be swayed by whatever eloquence you manage to muster. Without knowing the job, persistence won’t help much, either. It will be like pushing on a rope. While there’s more to it than this, this is the reason I consider real job knowledge as No. 1.

Job knowledge is not simply knowing the list of skills and responsibilities listed on the job description. It’s understanding the actual work the person actually needs to do to be successful. For example, having a CPA, 5-10 years in corporate reporting including SOX, and strong international reporting experience is not knowing the job. Moving the company to the international financial reporting standards in two years, building a team of eight staff and professional accountants to assess and upgrade the current, cumbersome domestic SEC and SOX reporting process, and quickly developing a worldwide set of accounting policies, is knowing the real job.

Without this type of detailed job knowledge, you’ll get little respect from the hiring manager, and top people with other things to do will dismiss you out of hand. Of course, to obtain this critical information you need to get it directly from the hiring manager. One way to better understand the job is to ask these questions during the intake meeting:

  • What are the big things the person will need to accomplish in order to be considered a top performer?
  • Why would a top performer who is not looking, who is fully employed, and has multiple opportunities, want this specific position?
  • What are the biggest challenges the person will face on the job?
  • What are the big areas of leadership and/or strategy the person would need to successfully handle?


After you have these answers, then go through every critical skill on the job description and ask, “What does the person need to do with the skill as part of the actual job?” For example, for strong communications skills, you might get something like “make weekly presentations to the design review committee.”

If the manager asks why you need to have this information, tell him or her that this is the information passive candidates who aren’t looking need to know in order to decide if they just want to enter into a conversation. Then as a real zinger, ask the hiring manager if he or she would agree to see a person who could perform all of the work listed, but didn’t have exactly the same background listed on the job description. If the manager says “of course,” you now know the job. In parallel, you are moving toward partnership status.

If the manager says no, persist and ask the questions again, or read this article before you ask the questions again. The key: do not start looking for a candidate until the hiring manager says the real job as defined is correct, and also agrees to see all candidates who have done comparable work. Otherwise everything you do afterwards will be problematic.

With this “new age” job profile in hand, start contacting passive candidates and ask this question: “would you be open to talking about a possible career move, if it was significantly better than what you’re doing today?” They all will say yes. If not, persist and ask the question word-for-word again. When they say yes, you must then get these candidates to tell you about themselves first. Use this time to determine if the candidate is highly qualified and would see your job as a career move. If so, recruit the person. If the person is not perfect for your spot, network and get three names of some great people who are perfect. This is where persistence and all of the other skills listed in the Recruiter Circle of Excellence above will come into play. But if you don’t know the job, and aren’t a partner with your hiring-manager client, all of the persistence and skills listed won’t help much.

Personal Goal Setting: The Essentials

By Jonathan Farrington

Success should be something you don’t just “Kinda Sorta” want to achieve but something you must achieve.

Generally top achievers expect to be successful and as a consequence they usually are. They are driven by a “have to” attitude not a “want to” attitude.

If you have no concrete goals and you have been succeeding in spite of yourself, just think how much more success you could enjoy if you set your sights on a definite path and had a specific time-frame in which you expect to reach your destination.

Setting Goals Keeps You Focussed:

What you should know is that goals give you three distinct advantages, which help you succeed:

• Goals keep you on track

• Goals let you know when and what to celebrate

• Goals give you a focussed plan to work with If nothing else, goals let others know what they have to aim for to keep up with your standards.

Effective Goal Setting
Take the time to think about what would make you happy, contented and satisfied and about what would motivate you to become a Top 5% Player.

It’s important to remember that goals are maps; they will guide you towards your success – the more detailed your goal setting the easier it will be for you to reach your destination.

When you are in the first stage of goal setting you also need to remember two important factors – i.e.

• The goal must be better than your best yet – but it must be achievable.

• Goals should be based on productivity not production.

Keeping these two rules of goal setting firmly in your mind will help you to form and stay committed to what is really important to you.

Time Yourself – By Months, Years & Decades:

• Always begin with long-term goals and work backwards. Your long-term goals are probably the most difficult to set anyway, so if you set those first, you accomplish the tough stuff right up-front.

• Long-term goals should be five-year projections and three areas you may want to consider when you set them are personal accomplishments, status symbols and net worth.

• Medium-term goals are usually three year projections and the same criteria can be used – but again think productivity not production and consider the activity that will be necessary to achieve success.

• Short-term goals will demand most of your attention and these are usually a twelve-month projection although you can set “immediate goals” which have a 90-day projection.

You must believe you can achieve all of your goals – otherwise you will not achieve them.

Setting a Well Balanced Diet of Goals:

It is essential to set personal as well as career goals to keep your life well balanced. If all your goals are connected to your commercial life, you will have trouble taking time out for family and friends because you will always be pushing towards the next career goal.

Remember:

Work smarter not harder. Setting personal goals gives you after business.

Put Your Goals in Writing:

Once you have formulated your goals it is time to make your final commitment to them by putting them down in writing. This is undoubtedly the single most important step in goal setting because until they are inscribed somewhere they are merely wishes and dreams.

After you have written them down, your mind will start seeking out whatever it will take to make them a reality.

Remember:

The moment you start moving forward towards a goal is the moment you start to succeed.

Setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals:

Once you have identified your goals ensure that they are S. M. A. R. T. E. R. i.e.

S = Specific
Ensure they are not vague but they state exactly what you want to achieve. Narrow it down to the most detailed level you can.

M = Measurable
How will you know when you’ve succeeded? Find some way to measure what change has taken place. Unless you can monitor progress how will you know if you’ve been successful?

A = Achievable
Be realistic, but do aim to stretch yourself. Too low and you will not have a challenge. Too high, can cause demotivation and disappointment.

R = Relevant
It is essential that your goals are personally meaningful. Doing it for yourself will make you feel proud and satisfied when you achieve it.

T = Timed
Set realistic time targets. Are you able to identify when you expect to have achieved your goals by?

E = Exciting
This should ensure that it will stimulate you into action. If it doesn’t you may opt for the “status quo”

R = Recorded
Writing your goals down serves to form a contract with yourself. Written goals can be reviewed and modified and you can carry them around as a permanent reminder or show them to other people.

In Summary:

Even though you do not need to set goals in order to reach some level of success, most professionals who fail to set goals reach a plateau and lack either the motivation or the direction to go beyond it. They are unable to move upwards to a higher achievement status.

Copyright © 2006 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved

How to Become a Great Finisher

by Heidi Grant Halvorson
Harvard Business Review

The road to hell may or may not be paved with good intentions, but the road to failure surely is. Take a good look at the people you work with, and you’ll find lots of Good Starters — individuals who want to succeed, and have promising ideas for how to make that happen. They begin each new pursuit with enthusiasm, or at the very least, a commitment to getting the job done.

And then something happens. Somewhere along the way, they lose steam. They get bogged down with other projects. They start procrastinating and miss deadlines. Their projects take forever to finish, if they get finished at all.

Does all this sound familiar? Maybe a little too familiar? If you are guilty of being a Good Starter, but a lousy finisher — at work or in your personal life — you have a very common problem. After all, David Allen’s Getting Things Done wouldn’t be a huge bestseller if people could easily figure out how to get things done on their own.

More than anything else, becoming a Great Finisher is about staying motivated from a project’s beginning to its end. Recent research has uncovered the reason why that can be so difficult, and a simple and effective strategy you can use to keep motivation high.

In their studies, University of Chicago psychologists Minjung Koo and Ayelet Fishbach examined how people pursuing goals were affected by focusing on either how far they had already come (to-date thinking) or what was left to be accomplished (to-go thinking). People routinely use both kinds of thinking to motivate themselves. A marathon runner may choose to think about the miles already traveled or the ones that lie ahead. A dieter who wants to lose 30 pounds may try to fight temptation by reminding themselves of the 20 pounds already lost, or the 10 left to go.

Intuitively, both approaches have their appeal. But too much to-date thinking, focusing on what you’ve accomplished so far, will actually undermine your motivation to finish rather than sustain it.

Koo and Fishbach’s studies consistently show that when we are pursuing a goal and consider how far we’ve already come, we feel a premature sense of accomplishment and begin to slack off. For instance, in one study, college students studying for an exam in an important course were significantly more motivated to study after being told that they had 52% of the material left to cover, compared to being told that they had already completed 48%.

When we focus on progress made, we’re also more likely to try to achieve a sense of “balance” by making progress on other important goals. This is classic Good Starter behavior — lots of pots on the stove, but nothing is ever ready to eat.

If, instead, we focus on how far we have left to go (to-go thinking), motivation is not only sustained, it’s heightened. Fundamentally, this has to do with the way our brains are wired. To-go thinking helps us tune in to the presence of a discrepancy between where we are now and where we want to be. When the human brain detects a discrepancy, it reacts by throwing resources at it: attention, effort, deeper processing of information, and willpower.

In fact, it’s the discrepancy that signals that an action is needed — to-date thinking masks that signal. You might feel good about the ground you’ve covered, but you probably won’t cover much more.

Great Finishers force themselves to stay focused on the goal, and never congratulate themselves on a job half-done. Great managers create Great Finishers by reminding their employees to keep their eyes on the prize, and are careful to avoid giving effusive praise or rewards for hitting milestones “along the way.” Encouragement is important, but to keep your team motivated, save the accolades for a job well — and completely — done.

Sales Tips: Four Crimes You Must Avoid

by Tim Wackel
Here’s a quick countdown of the four worst “selling” crimes being committed today and some practical advice on how you can avoid them.

Crime #4 – Assuming “no” when you really don’t “know”

Stop assuming they won’t take your call, agree to an appointment or do business with you. Too many reps simply give up because they don’t hear back from prospects right away. They throw proposal after proposal out the door and then lose interest in following up because they get distracted chasing the next opportunity.

Please understand that I’m not giving you license to become a pest, but I am encouraging you to become more persistent. Quit making decisions for your prospects and move forward the remainder of this year with a relentless “go for no” attitude. Sure you’ll face a little more rejection, but that helps clean out your funnel and forces you to focus on the right opportunities. I know it hurts to lose, but you can’t lose what you don’t have. And you just might be surprised how many times you’ll hear a “yes” if you’re willing to stay engaged.

Crime #3 – Talking too much

Many sales people get hired because the have the infamous “gift of gab.” There is a pretty good chance that you’ve worked with someone who loved nothing better than the sound of their voice. These reps are great at telling stories, but they struggle to connect and create deeper dialogue with prospects and customers.

Many customers are being asked to do more with less today. Spending time with an overly friendly (see all chatty) sales rep isn’t a priority, it’s a liability.

Being able to clearly and succinctly articulate a compelling story is vital to your success. Your goal is to be brief, be bright and then be gone.

Before you make your next call, ask yourself; why, given all of the competitive alternatives available, should this prospect want to do business with me right now?

Crime #2 – Failing to ask for commitment

One of the major reasons reps don’t get the business is because they hesitate to ask for it. Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the process. If you’ve done the right things in the right way, it becomes your professional responsibility to be assertive.

When should you close? Early and often! Asking for little commitments along the way makes asking for the final commitment much easier. Plus you’ll quickly learn how realistic the opportunity is. Customers who are unwilling to make small commitments along the way are going to be even less enthusiastic about making a bigger commitment later on.

Crime #1 – Purposely (or mistakenly) using less than adequate skills

If you’re going to sell more every year, you need to get better every year. Sales people who think they’re done learning are usually just done. And that’s OK if your closing question is “Do you want fries with that?”

There is an abundance of sales books, tele-seminars, podcasts, webinars, and sales training programs available today. What are you waiting for?

So where should you focus? Start by honestly answering a few of these questions.

-How much preparation are you putting into each call?

-Are the questions you ask thought provoking or mind numbing?

-How valuable are your ideas (i.e. would prospects pay for them?)

-What are the top three obstacles that prevent deals from closing?

-How do you clearly and concisely address these obstacles?

-What are you doing every week to help build better relationships?

Make a commitment right now to sharpen some of your selling skills. I’m confident it will help you win more opportunities and create more success!

It takes courage to admit you could be a better sales rep and confidence to believe you can change; it takes nothing to create excuses.